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Family Wants Local VA Accountability After Pastor’s Death

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jason Allen
Jason came to North Texas after working as a reporter for four y...
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Nearly two years after the CBS 11 I-Team started investigating long waits for patients at the North Texas VA Medical Center, the country’s top VA official stepped down Friday.

However his resignation comes after years of healthcare delays and the deaths of some of the nation’s veterans. For their families, his resignation is too little too late. They said they want those responsible in North Texas held accountable – now. Otherwise, they fear veterans still aren’t receiving the care they were promised.

“It really wasn’t the disease, it was the lack of care that took so much out of me and my family,” said Mary Alford who watched her husband Darryl fight for his life at the VA facility.

Darryl Alford (credit: CBS 11 News)

Darryl Alford (credit: CBS 11 News)

Darryl was a local pastor who suffered from lung disease. Mary Alford said he waited months for a breathing machine, then months for surgery, then he had a stroke.

“Every excuse you can name. I wrote letters. No one ever responded until the news story broke. Then the next day, six different people wanted to talk to me,” said Alford.

Three months later, the Alfords held a funeral for the army veteran who passed away at 51-years-old.

The Alford’s are one of at least 5 north Texas families the I-Team has talked to, who believe lack of care at the VA, led to veterans’ deaths. There were warnings going back to 2005, including 18 reports from the Inspector General with three in Texas.

“I will not defend it because it is indefensible but I can take responsibility for it — and I do,” said now former secretary Eric Shinseki.

He blames the problem senior leaders with an “indefensible” lack of integrity — something Mary Alford, said she agrees with.

“I really truly believe some of the directors of the hospital ought to resign, right along with him,” said Alford.

The North Texas VA sent the I-Team the following statement, which reads in part:

“The employees at VA North Texas Health Care System will continue to proudly serve North Texas Veterans under the leadership of Sloan D. Gibson, the new Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and we remain dedicated to providing exceptional health care to improve Veteran’s health and well-being.

The VA North Texas Health Care System takes any allegations about patient care or employee misconduct very seriously. This Department’s most important mission is to make sure Veterans know VA is here to care for them – to provide the high quality care they have earned and deserve.

Veterans must feel safe walking into our VA facilities, and VA employees must work continuously to provide them with the highest quality care. That is our standard—Veterans deserve to have full faith in their VA care.

Where we have failed to meet those commitments we will redouble our efforts to deliver timely care to patients with compassion and integrity.  We will identify problems and resolve these issues expediently.  Together with VSOs, Congress and all VA stakeholders we will act with the best interests of Veterans at heart.  As was made clear this morning, VA is taking concrete steps towards that end – including initiation of accountability for senior leadership and elimination of performance awards for senior VHA leaders for Fiscal Year 2014.”

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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