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North Georgia veteran has to have amputation while waiting for care

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 As the Obama administration looks to fix the troubles surrounding the Veterans Affairs Administration, stories continue to surface of veterans who have fallen through the cracks when it comes to treatment.

One North Georgia veteran says a confusion in scheduling resulted in part of his foot having to be amputated. Sixty-six-year-old Jerry Johnson of Ringgold says he has received top-notch care over the past four years at area VA clinics. But at the same time, he says a restructuring of the agency from the top down would do some good.

A recent white house report cited a "corrosive culture" in the VA system  that needs to be "restructured" and "reformed."

Channel 3 has heard from local vets who say they have faced delays in medical treatment.

"The appointments kept getting pushed back and pushed back and pushed back," says Veteran Nolan Lucas.

"This restructuring will be alright if they go from the top all the way down," says Jerry Johnson.

Johnson was a helicopter door gunner in Vietnam. Over the years he has faced a multitude of health problems with kidney failure, type two diabetes and having to have heart surgery. Overall, he says he has had excellent care.

"The VA, as far as my doctors, I love my doctor. He's a wonderful doctor," says Johnson.

But in April, Johnson cut his foot. His VA doctor in Chattanooga told him he needed to see a VA foot doctor in Murfreesboro, as soon as possible and his doctor contacted the clinic to schedule an appointment.

"Well, I waited and I waited and I waited. Still no notification," says Johnson.

Johnson says the longer he waited, the more his foot hurt and he decided to go to a local hospital.

"And they said that, 'I hate to tell you this but we're going to have to take that toe off.'"

Now he is been having to use a cane to help him get around.

"Well, to put it honestly, what I feel like is a 66-year-old toddler learning how to walk all over again."

He says it could have been much worse.

"They said that if I had waited much longer they would have to have taken my whole foot off above the ankle."

It turns out, Johnson would have been waiting a long time to been seen at the Murfreesboro clinic.

"Scheduling decided that I didn't need to see a doctor until July," says Johnson.

He says the doctor in Murfreesboro apologized for the scheduling confusion.

"She apologized about the whole thing."

He hopes the newly nominated VA Secretary, Robert McDonald, can turn things around.

"I'm hoping that this new one, he can get something done and listen to the veterans, you know?"

A recent audit of Tennessee VA facilities showed new patients had some of the longest wait times in the country.
 
A spokeswoman for the administration's Nashville office says, "We are consistently trying to improve wait times wherever we can."

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