BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - More than 100 veterans packed into VFW Post 2434 in Biloxi Tuesday with one goal in mind: To let Congressman Steven Palazzo know about their mounting frustration with the Veterans Administration Health Care System.
The congressman scheduled the forum to hear firsthand the problems the vets are facing. Stories about backlogs for medical care lasting weeks and even months were the norm.
"I got the thing back and it was all denied by the VA in Jackson and I've got additional evidence now to re-submit back to them," veteran Raymond Lyons explained.
Another veteran, Thomas Krass, was asked to submit medical records from 47 years ago before he could receive the care he needs.
"I've gone through three hurricanes, and in two hurricanes I've lost everything," Krass lamented. "It's thoroughly impossible for me to show up with anything like that. I can't produce it, I don't have it."
Other vets, like Jimmy Hancock, simply watch the years go by.
"I've been waiting 43 years, really. I've been waiting for the past four years on one appeal, another year on another appeal."
For some, it's not just paperwork and red tape that are so disheartening. It's also attitude.
"If the VA would bring the smile back. I can accept the denial, but do it, bring the smile back. That's the first thing that needs to be corrected. Let's bring the smiles back at the VA," veteran Luther Harvey said.
Congressman Palazzo said the system is broken, and needs fixing.
"We need to give the VA the tools. We need to be able hold people accountable, and right now you can't even fire people within the VA system," Palazzo implored.
The level of frustration at the forum was high as the vets told one horror story after horror story after another about the treatment being handed out by the VA. But there were also exceptions to that rule.
"I've been coming to the VA here since 1999 and I have nothing but wonderful things say about the service they provide. They've been real good. They caught my prostrate cancer real early so it was not a problem," veteran Robert Caffrey explained.
But at the forum, those stories were few and far between.
Following the forum, Congressman Palazzo flew back to Washington. He plans on meeting with fellow members and holding hearings on the situation at the VA in the next week or two.