Marine claims he faced delays at VA Center

NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — A decorated Newport Marine claims the Providence Veterans Affairs Medical Center does not meet the demands of its patients, despite what a pair of recent reviews proclaim.

Michael Stubbs joined the Marines after the 9-11 attacks, and saw active duty in 2006 as a turret gunner in Fallujah, Iraq. In May of that year, an improvised explosive device exploded within a few feet of Stubbs.

“Just a huge flash. And I remember trying to breath and there was just no air from the displacement,” Stubbs says. “And right about that time, I just blacked out.”

He tells Target 12 he has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a Traumatic Brain Injury, but he claims when he went to the VA Medical Center in Providence between 2009 and 2012, he dealt with long delays in appointments, and was told by doctors the active duty explosion was not related to his severe headaches and hearing loss.

A VA spokesperson would not talk about this specific case, but did say the average wait for an appointment is 14 days.

“The two week figure is the measure,” Leslie Pierson says. “In many areas, specialty care is delivered in less than two weeks.”

Stubbs tells us he remains in contact with dozens of veterans who use the Providence VA Medical Center.

“I can’t name one who has told me they’ve gotten care within 14 days. I can name to the contrary more people with stories that are similiar to mine,” Stubbs said.

Regarding two recent audits of the Providence VA Medical Center that did not uncover any issues with wait times and in Pierson’s words “found everything to be above board and transparent”, Stubbs is skeptical.

“I don’t believe it,” he says. “Not one word of it.”

Stubbs decided to go to a private physician who he says told him the IED explosion, PTSD and brain injury are related to his headaches and hearing loss.

If any Veteran feels that there has been a delay in treatment, they are encouraged to contact the Patient Advocates,” Pierson said. “Our patient advocates contact the providers, follow up on the Veterans concerns, and work to resolve them.”

Stubbs tells us he’s done that, but it didn’t help.

“I’m not alone in this, and this isn’t about me,” he said. “There are others who cannot fight for themselves, so they turn to alcohol and other things. We could solve a lot of problems if they got help when they needed it.”

A nationwide Veterans Affairs investigation was launched recently after a VA medical center in Phoenix was accused of keeping secret lists of patients waiting for treatment in order to hide excessive waiting periods.

No problems were found in two recent audits of the Providence VA Medical Center, but Stubbs believes many local veterans are fearful of repercussions if they come forward to complain about the hospital.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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