Roger stood in front of the Ottumwa Veterans Affairs (VA) Clinic Thursday afternoon holding a sign which read”This VA turns away vets.” Passing drivers slowed to read his sign; others waved to show support.
We stopped to talk to Roger about his protest. He says he served 10 years in the Army before receiving a medical retirement. He now suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but the Ottumwa VA Clinic refuses to treat him, referring him instead to Iowa City.
“I can’t afford to go up there all the time to get treatment,” he said. “If I go to the hospital here then it costs me co-pays out of pocket.”**
Roger says his problems started after he used some choice words during a visit. He’s since apologized for his actions, but the VA still refuses to treat him in Ottumwa.
“I’ve had the paper come out and talk to me,” Roger said. “But they didn’t want to do anything for just a single protester.” So Roger stands by himself holding his sign. He says that between his kids and other work, he only has the time to come do this a few hours a week.
He just wants the government to keep the promise they made when he enlisted.
Roger says the VA has threatened him with trespassing charges if he were to step onto their Ottumwa property. He’s careful to stay on the sidewalk, city property, and parks his car in another location.
He says even though he stays on the public sidewalk along Pennsylvania Avenue, the VA has told him he can’t protest there. According to Roger, the VA claims to own property out to the center lines on Pennsylvania.
One passing motorist stopped to ask what his sign meant. Roger briefly told his story, and encouraged the motorist to go inside and let the staff know what they think. The motorist did something that Roger himself can’t, she went inside the VA to share a piece of her mind. Upon exiting, she told Ottumwa Radio News that “they just told me they couldn’t comment. This is wrong.”
Staff at the Ottumwa VA Clinic declined to comment and referred us to a Public Affairs officer at the Iowa City VA. The Iowa City Spokesman told Ottumwa Radio that they can’t comment on individual cases without a release from the patient. He added that there are sometimes circumstances that require veterans to be treated at certain clinics. “For instance, the VA in Minneapolis does open heart surgeries, while we can’t do that here. We refer people to the appropriate clinic for their requirements.”