Several years ago Mark Souder threw up his hands in disgust and told veterans that if they pushed too much they would lose everything in Fort Wayne.  Souder offered no support, no encouragement – all recorded on an a DVD for posterity.

Cowardice comes to mind.  His position at that time was to just accept the Capital Asset and Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) commission decision and not challenge the wisdom of the government agency, which intended to eliminate the inpatient beds at the Fort Wayne, Indiana, VA facility.

But, thanks to a number of dedicated and concerned  individuals, among them Dr.Tom Hayhurst, the issue was not allowed to retreat to the back burner much to Souder’s dismay.  Dr. Hayhurst and his fellow veterans decided that enough was enough – veterans in this area deserved to keep their inpatient beds.

Dr. Hayhurst and about 10 other outraged and dedicated veterans founded a group – Veterans for Better Health Care – and  demanded that the inpatient beds stay in Fort Wayne and that our veterans not be shipped to Ann Arbor or Indianapolis for care – a ridiculous process for the second largest city in Indiana and the VA Hospital which serves thousands of our area veterans.

I became Director of Veterans for Better Health Care in October 2005.  We fought long and hard for our veterans – to make sure the promises that had been made to them when they enlisted were not thrown aside and forgotten.  Souder is like a slipperly eel when it comes to veterans issues.  He told the Elkhart Truth newspaper that “if it had not been for the veterans, he and his office would not paid as much attention.”

Souder was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War.  How does he even have any concept of what veterans go through?  While I acknowledge his decision to take a stand and opt out of the Vietnam War, I have to ask how he has any inkling of what our veterans went through and today still go through.  The answer is simple – he doesn’t.

Thus, we have the current resolution to the issue – no inpatient beds at the existing VA Hospital and a new Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) in roughly 2011.  But where will the veterans go for inpatient treatment?  Well, it appears they will go to area hospitals – just like everyone else.  I have to wonder if those hospitals will have special treatment facilities for those who suffer with PTSD.

A veteran understands veterans.  Tom Hayhurst, who ran against Souder in 2006, understands veterans issues.  He was a veteran.  Let’s hope that Dr. Hayhurst decides to run again – this time maybe all voters – not just veterans – will understand that it “truly takes one to know one.”

Tom Hayhurst


About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
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  1. As a veteran who has service connected disabilities, I take the opposite view in keeping the VA system. The VA in my experience has miss diagnosed numerous serious problems. My doctor seems very adept at requesting tests, but test seem to be cancelled. I would much rather be treated at area hospitals and by area doctors than the VA system.

    I am still waiting for a specialist after it was first requested in April. I stopped going to the VA in 1981 because they miss diagnosed three serious problems. In 2006 I returned after reading they had made tremendous improvements.

  2. William:

    Has your experience improved at all? I talk to veterans who are on both sides of the fence. Some say they wouldn’t go anywhere else and others have described problems such as you have had.

    I think one of the issues no matter which side you take is that many veterans feel they may be lost in the regular health care system in the sense that the staff may not understand veterans’ issues.

  3. My experience has not improved. In July 2006 my doctor requested I be seen by a cardiologist. Some time later the request was cancelled and I did not find out until mid 2009. I was hurt severely in steam turbine explosion. A LCDR Mike Mullen found me in the engineroom after the explosion shook the USS Fox. His fast actions are why I am here today.

    Having been admitted to the VA hospital three times in the past six weeks, I can say I receive professional care, but the problem is I have had to wait 30 years to be seen. The pain in my arm where I lost a chunk of flesh, the 3rd degree burns to by arm and ankle restrict flow, the pain from being thrown against steel bulkheads and over heads, the inability to treat head injuries and in general too slow is not worth it. Is it better than in 1981, yes! No doubt, and that is why I returned to the VA system in 2006. However, it may be too late for me, but I certainly hope those returning from Iraq and Affganistan receive proper care.

    If I had my choice, I would rather pick my provider and the provider bill the VA. As for understanding veteran’s issues, this is a smoke screen. Pain is pain no matter if you are a veteran or not. Being burned from escaping 600 psi steam at over 900F hurts and burns as much as any other burn. An explosion versus a head on car wreck, may have some differences. However, many of the doctors in private practice are ex military. All I want is a provider who can listen to my symptoms, determine a treatment and follow through in relatively short period of time, not 30 years!!!

    For those who have loved ones in the military, please take this advice seriously. If they ever go to a military hospital or base dispensary or the ships corpsman, have them do two things. Create a dedicated journal identifying date, reason for treatment, who treated you and what was the treatment. If they receive Rx drug, get the name, qty and number. Have them make a copy and send this home for safe keeping. Two get a copy at the time they go for treatment of any written documentation. In my case, the corpsman and ship’s company new I was “blown up.” I returned to the ship without a medical board, unable to walk, open my right hand, 3rd degree burn to my right ankle, told to stay of the sun light for two years, no immersion in water for longer than 5 minutes a day and more. Yes I would need physical therapy. Yes, I will have pain. I went to the ships dispensary weekly and got my weekly pain killers – no one wrote this down. I complained of problems, had seizures on the ship if front of ship personnel, never written down. Was I hurt yes. Can I prove I was hurt with naval medical records no. However, I had the ships investigation report.

    The VA missed my problem for nearly 30 years and for that I am paying a very high price. If national Healthcare is anything like the VA, take me out back, shoot me. Please.

    As for Dr. Hayhurst being a veteran, I honestly think this has little to do with serving veterans. To me it takes having suffered the system to make a difference and understand veterans issues. As far as I know Dr. Hayhurst is not a service connected disabled vet and I doubt he has had to use the VA for any service. Therefore, his first hand knowledge may be less than one might initially think.

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