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U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler Requests Investigation into Veteran’s Death after VA Delays Cancer Treatment

Southwest Washington veteran diagnosed with cancer appears to have fallen through the cracks at VA

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Washington, DC, January 9, 2017 | comments
After learning that a Southwest Washington veteran’s cancer treatment was delayed three months by the VA, Jaime Herrera Beutler has requested that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs launch an investigation into the lapse that appears to have cost him his life.
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After learning that a Southwest Washington veteran’s cancer treatment was delayed three months by the VA, Jaime Herrera Beutler has requested that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs launch an investigation into the lapse that appears to have cost him his life.

Jaime sent a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald today asking him to launch an investigation into why it took the VA three months to schedule an appointment for what could have been a treatable diagnosis.  According to a report in The Chronicle newspaper, Mr. John Weston was diagnosed in July of 2016 with a tumor on his liver but was not scheduled for treatment until October. During that time, the tumor grew and became untreatable, and Mr. Weston passed away in December.

Getting to the bottom of this tragic situation is imperative to improving veterans’ access to timely and quality health care in Southwest Washington- one of Jaime’s top priorities in Congress.

The text of Jaime’s letter to the VA secretary follows, and a PDF of the original letter is available here:

 Dear Secretary McDonald:

 I write you today out of deep concern and outrage at reports that a Southwest Washington military veteran, Mr. John Weston, was forced to wait three months to receive cancer care at the VA Portland Health Care System, and died last month after a delay in treatment may have cost him his life.  The cancer appeared to have been a treatable diagnosis had he received timely care.  I am requesting an internal investigation into Mr. Weston’s case to determine how this happened – particularly in light of a years-long effort by the U.S. Congress to force the VA to eliminate wait times, fraud, neglect and data manipulation that have resulted in poor care that has cost veterans like Mr. Weston their lives.

 Mr. Weston was diagnosed with a cancerous walnut-sized tumor in his liver in July.  He switched from the VA Seattle Health Care System to the VA Portland Health Care System to be near his family while undergoing treatment.  When he was finally able to schedule an appointment in October, it was too late; seven days before his scheduled appointment, the tumor had grown significantly and burst, spreading cancer through his body. 

 Additionally, after the tumor ruptured, Mr. Weston was taken to a civilian hospital after allegedly being told the VA did not have room for him.  It was not until a congressional inquiry was made that he was transferred to a VA facility.  This investigation should also uncover, and address why it took congressional action for a veteran to receive care for a life-threatening issue at a VA facility.

 As Mr. Weston said in an interview with The Chronicle newspaper before his passing: “It just didn’t have to happen like this, and that’s the worst part of it for me, that we knew about this early enough… Somebody dropped the ball somewhere, and I’m paying the price for it.” 

 Mr. Weston served his country and battled health complications as a direct result.  Like other military veterans, he had earned health care coverage through the VA.  However, his care slipped through the cracks.  This inexcusable delay in care and Mr. Weston’s untimely passing was tragic.  If only his case was an isolated one. 

 I request you conduct a comprehensive internal investigation as soon as possible to determine how this happened, and report the results of this investigation to Congress. 

 Sincerely,

 Jaime Herrera Beutler
Member of Congress 

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Tags: Veterans