Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A dying veteran finally gets space at the VA hospital

Air Force veteran James Carroll suffers from leukemia.

MIKE PEASE | TIMES

Air Force veteran James Carroll suffers from leukemia.

ZEPHYRHILLS — James Carroll said the Department of Veterans Affairs may finally be keeping a promise it makes to every veteran.

Officials at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa have reached out to Carroll, a veteran dying of leukemia, and said they will do all they can to ensure Carroll gets the care he needs.

In a front-page story in Thursday's St. Petersburg Times, Carroll and his sister said Haley had repeatedly refused to admit the Air Force veteran, even though he is eligible for complete, free care.

They said they were told Haley was simply too crowded.

All that changed on Friday when the VA portrayed the situation as a misunderstanding. Haley's chief of staff, Carroll said, called and said he would personally oversee Carroll's treatment.

In addition, a Haley social worker told Carroll's sister, Nancy McEndree, that the VA will pay all medical bills Carroll accumulated when forced to get treatment outside the VA.

Carroll has lost track of how much he owes but said it's in the thousands — mostly co-pays and deductibles for Medicare.

"I think they're doing the right thing now," said Carroll, who was pleased but wary. "So far, all we've heard is words."

It appears the VA's turnaround may have been prodded by Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, who saw the newspaper story and immediately e-mailed Haley chief of staff, Dr. Edward Cutolo, to fix the problem.

"He got my e-mail at 6:45 in the morning before my coffee had a chance to brew," Brown-Waite said.

Brown-Waite said she didn't think the episode pointed to any systemic problem at Haley and is happy that the hospital is getting the word out to employees about appropriate responses when veterans call for help.

"In a perfect world, I wouldn't have had to get involved," Brown-Waite said.

A Haley spokeswoman has said the facility, one of the busiest in the nation, is trying to reduce the times that it is forced to send patients to other non-VA hospitals.

John Pickens, a VA regional spokesman, said he thought Carroll's case was an aberration and not a sign of a wider problem at Haley.

"If that happened, it's not something that typically happens," said Pickens. "We regret it. It's not a perfect system. The good thing about the VA is that we were able to get it fixed."

Pickens urged veterans to call a patient advocate if they are having difficulties with the VA. (At Haley, that number is (813) 978-5856, and at Bay Pines in St. Petersburg it's (727) 398-9524.)

In a statement, Cutolo said the VA would examine whether it owes Carroll a pension based on Agent Orange exposure.

The VA has refused to provide him such a pension.

Agent Orange, widely known for its use in Vietnam, was also sprayed in Korea in the late 1960s, a time when Carroll served there.

The VA said it isn't making any promises, but if Carroll is granted such a benefit, his pension could nearly double from its current $1,500.

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5306.

A dying veteran finally gets space at the VA hospital 10/17/08 [Last modified: Friday, October 24, 2008 6:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays make Hechavarria trade official

    Blogs

    Here is the release from the team ...

     

  2. Jones: Will Tampa Bay hit a Hall of Fame dry spell now?

    Lightning Strikes

    Marty St. Louis may lack the Hall of Fame stats, but two scoring titles, an MVP award and clutch goals should count for a lot. (Dirk Shadd, Times)
  3. SeaWorld shares drop Monday to 2017 low after disclosure of federal subpoena

    Tourism

    The Orlando parent company of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks saw its stock drop 3.5 percent Monday to $15.10, its lowest price of this year.

    Killer whales perform at Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld in Orlando in 2011, before public pressure was placed on the theme park company to curtail its orca shows.SeaWorld has since announced an end to the traditional killer whale entertainment  at its theme parks. [AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack]
  4. Update: Scientology cancels planned mock FBI raid on downtown building

    Special Topics

    CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology planned to film a mock FBI raid on a downtown building Monday afternoon, but the actors and cameras never showed up to the location disclosed to the city.

    According to Clearwater Police, the Church of Scientology plans to hold a mock FBI raid at 3 p.m. Monday at this vacant building at 305 N Fort Harrison Ave. Police announced the raid in advance to alert the public. They said they did not know the reason for the event. [Google Earch image]
  5. Support for gay marriage surges, even among groups once wary

    Human Interest

    NEW YORK — In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey.

    People gather in Washington's Lafayette Park to see the White House lit up in rainbow colors on June 26, 2015, the day the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage legal. In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey released on Monday, June 26, 2017. [Associated Press]