Wife demands change after GR veteran turned away by VA

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — After more than 10 years of struggling with the Veterans Affairs Hospital to keep her veteran husband alive and walking, Tara Johnson-Brower of Grand Rapids says enough is enough.

“I was mad, I was mad and it was years in the making,” she said.

The couple says they don’t want to complain — they want to make a difference. Unfortunately it took a rant on Facebook and talking to 24 Hour News 8 to get the attention of the VA.

For the last decade, Tara says her Army Ranger husband has been ignored, misdiagnosed and disrespected. It culminated during a trip to the Battle Creek VA Medical Center this past Saturday. Jesse says he couldn’t feel his bad leg, and his good leg was also suffering.

“I’ve got to go get looked at,” he said.

He drove more than an hour from Grand Rapids to Battle Creek, in pain. When he got there, the lights in the waiting room were off and he was told to sit and wait, even though he was the only patient.

“There was one nurse that was yelling at the TV watching football, and one receptionist and one doctor and he was still waiting,” recounted Tara.

It’s a big change from the way Jesse was treated about 15 years ago, when he was honored by the then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for his service during the attack on the Pentagon.

Tara says the lack of care is affecting the entire family, including their two young sons. Jesse now has to use a walker and spends days lying on his back instead of playing with his kids.

“They look at him like he’s just a superstar and to come home and learn that they (The VA Hospital) didn’t help you? (It’s) like, what in the world?” Tara said.

All her husband is asking for is the help that he earned by serving his country.

“I’ve had enough,” said Tara. “I’ve had enough of it. So if I have to be the one voice for many voices, I’ll do that.”

Tara says after posting on Facebook about her frustrations, the VA called her. It’s the first time in years that she’s received a call from anyone associated with the VA.

When 24 Hour News 8 visited the Battle Creek VA Monday to get some answers, we were told the agency would look into it. Public affairs officer Brian Pegouske later sent the following statement:

“We take these allegations seriously. Battle Creek VAMC leaders are looking into this and reviewing the Veterans’ (sic) treatment to ensure he is being cared for properly. We are also contacting Mr. Johnson-Brower to make sure he is receiving the care expected by our facility.”

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