CLARENCE, N.Y. (WIVB) – Lynn Magistrale’s account of developing cancer, and how the Department of Veterans Affairs in Buffalo mishandled it, seems to have struck a chord with many other veterans, their families, and even non-veterans about medical care at the VA.
The story aired on News 4, last week, and the next day Lynn, a disabled veteran of the war in Iraq, was getting calls from the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington to try to resolve her problems.
The phone has been ringing nearly non-stop at Western New York Heroes, a veterans advocacy group in Clarence where Magistrale is on staff.
Lynn said doctors at the VA Medical Center first missed her cancer, then misdiagnosed it. She is now cancer-free but mistakes were made with her medical insurance, leading to unpaid medical bills, and debt collectors relentlessly calling the Lancaster mother of two girls.
The retired Air Force Tech Sergeant’s story unleashed a flood of phone calls to WNY Heroes, plus emails, and postings on their Facebook page.
Many of those calls came in to Sandy Lindaman, Director of Operations for WNY Heroes, “I don’t think they knew where to go, or how to ask for help. But once the story broke, it is finally waking people up, and they are starting to ask for help.”
Lindaman has referred many of the phone calls and Facebook inquiries to the appropriate agencies, and in some cases forwarded the complaints to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington.
“Mostly just trying to get them connected with the right people, whether it is at the actual Buffalo VA, or moving their emails, or their messages to DC.”
Chris Kreiger, founder and CEO of Western New York Heroes, said many of the callers are relating experiences similar to Magistrale’s ordeal with the VA.
“A lot of them are coming out, talking about their misdiagnosis or mistreatment at the VA, and for some of the veterans that have contacted us, have even lost their loved one, because of that.”
Kreiger advocates for better treatment of returning veterans, and has strong feelings about lawmakers in Washington who get much better medical benefits than veterans who have put it all on the line.
“Our men and women who are being sent to another country, and asked to put their life on the line, and willing to give their life to this country, come back to less health care than our politicians are getting, and that, in itself, is criminal and unfair.”
VA officials in Washington are investigating Lynn Magistrale’s case, and offering to help her. Her medical issues have led to even more pain financially. VA officials in Buffalo have assured us, they are reviewing Lynn’s case, too, and trying to resolve her insurance issues.