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Haley chief's letter apologizes for lack of detail on VA death

TAMPA — The director of the James A. Haley VA Medical Center apologized to Sen. Bill Nelson for not providing a more complete picture about the death of a veteran.

The letter by Stephen Lucas, received by Nelson late Friday, said miscommunication at Haley led to the senator getting less information about the death of Richard Stecher than was intended.

Stecher, 64, of Tarpon Springs died at Haley on June 30 from a perforated bowel obstruction.

The Department of Veterans Affairs "is committed to transparency in its relationship with veterans," Lucas wrote. "That is why we disclose errors to veterans and/or their families whenever we discover them. In the same vein, we are committed to transparency with members of Congress."

Nelson, D-Fla., and Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, first asked about Stecher's care earlier this year after his longtime companion wrote letters of complaint to them.

In an Aug. 8 story, the St. Petersburg Times reported that Haley had apologized to the companion for the care Stecher received and said three doctors missed opportunities to treat him.

The VA said Stecher should have been admitted after a CAT scan in April. Haley sent Stecher to a facility outside the VA for the scan, which may have delayed a quicker diagnosis of the bowel obstruction.

But when Haley first provided Bilirakis with information on the case, officials didn't mention these details.

Bilirakis, who met with Haley officials last week, said he was satisfied the VA did not deliberately try to deceive them.

Lucas blamed part of the mixup on the fact that a hospital review of the case and the drafting of the original letter to Bilirakis and Nelson took place at different times.

On the Web

For see a complete copy of the letter, visit the Times military/VA blog at

Haley chief's letter apologizes for lack of detail on VA death 08/25/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 25, 2008 10:15pm]
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