VA hospital

It's mid-morning on a weekday at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Miami, and Gloria Lewis is squeezed inside her office. Lewis, a suicide prevention coordinator at the Miami VA, sits amidst a giant, shrink-wrapped pallet of boxes. 

Outside the door, a cluster of women in matching red polo shirts are arriving to visit Lewis. They're all volunteers from the League of Women Voters in Broward County and they are feet away from what they drove down to Miami to collect.

An agency pilot program aims to bypass regulations that can make it hard for veterans to get cutting-edge medical treatment.

It's been nearly two years since the Department of Veterans Affairs came under fire for the amount of time veterans had to wait to see a doctor. The agency scrambled to find a fix, including allowing vets the option of seeing a private doctor via a program they call Veterans Choice.

WMFE

The head of the Veterans Administration is in Orlando today to dedicate the new VA hospital in Lake Nona. VA Secretary Bob McDonald will be the keynote speaker at an event, which will include elected officials.

The $620 million dollar facility broke ground seven years ago, and has been plagued with delays. The clinic began seeing patients in February, and the hospital will continue opening in phases through the rest of 2015.

Navy veteran Tom Pokorski said the new facility is an improvement over the VA clinic at Lake Baldwin, which is old and over-crowded.

The long-awaited Orlando VA hospital in Lake Nona is 95 percent complete.

That’s according to builder Brasfield & Gorrie, which says parts of the $665 million facility have been turned over the VA.

Orlando VA spokesman Michael Strickler said veterans could start being seen as soon as spring, with summer the target for the hospital to be fully operational.

“We’re almost there, leaning heavily forward, to try and get veterans in the door,” Strickler said.

Army Ranger Cory Remsburg 'Leads the Way'

Sep 24, 2014

Army Ranger Cory Remsburg returns each year to James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa to show the staff his progress. He was severely injured in 2009 and spent two years recovering at Haley’s Polytrauma Center.

Remsburg was on his tenth deployment when he was injured by an IED in Afghanistan. His teammates found him face down in a water-filled canal with shrapnel in his brain.

He was in a coma when he arrived at the Haley.

Office of Special Counsel

The head of the Office of Special Counsel in Washington sent President Barack Obama a scathing letter about the VA's failure to take responsibility for the patients who may have been harmed by hospitals' system of keeping double books for appointments.

VA Doctors Tried to Blow Whistle

Jun 2, 2014

Air Force veteran Marc Schenker of Fort Lauderdale gave up waiting for the VA hospital in Miami to repair his hernia. He had it done at a private-sector hospital and charged it to Medicare.

Schenker is one of many veterans who contacted the New York Times last week to say they like the quality of VA care but hate the wait.

VA

  Florida Republican Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, is sponsoring a bill that would speed up the firing process for senior executives at the VA, the Associated Press  reports. The bill comes amid whistleblower reports of delays in treatment and deaths at VA facilities, including allegations that as many as 40 veterans died while waiting for care at a VA in Phoenix, Ariz.

 The new VA Hospital in Orlando will not open by December as originally planned, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

Both of Florida's U.S. Senators - Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio - are filing legislation in the Senate to rename the VA Medical Center at Bay Pines after the late U.S. Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young. 

Their legislation will be a companion to a House bill introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller that may be voted on as early as Wednesday. Young, who died Friday, is credited with bringing an expansion of  the VA center in his home district in Pinellas County. 

Here's a statement from Rubio:

Tampa's James A. Haley VA Medical Center, which has come under fire in previous years over sanitation issues, confirmed rat droppings were discovered by maintenance workers removing ceiling tiles in a storage area, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

However, hospital officials say the droppings are old. They say they have completed a pest-control program that ousted any rodents.