Since ABC aired Bob Woodruff's documentary "To Iraq and Back," we have received more than a thousand e-mails from veterans and their families, with many claiming they have had problems dealing with the Veteran's Benefits Administration as they seek rehabilitation from injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan.
What's remarkable among the notes is how many include similar complaints about how badly the smaller VAs around the country are dealing with the injured once they return home.
A persistent problem mentioned is the bureaucracy involved in dealing with the VA system.
One mother wrote on the ABCNEWS.com message board that when her son returned from Iraq, he "had a time with all the paperwork" and "had to pay for his medical care for over a year before getting to the VA."
"I'm a disabled veteran who has experienced so many questionable decisions made by the VA," wrote another viewer, "that I refuse to go to any veterans hospitals. … I understand the VA is the largest provider for health care in our nation and they do have LIMITED RESOURCES; however, our country should not skimp on funds when our men and women have given their lives and futures for this nation."
'People Are Great … System Is Horrible'
Marine Cpl. Yuriy Zmysly sustained a brain injury from complications during surgery. But when he went home to Illinois, his local VA wasn't equipped to handle his recovery.
"The people are great," his wife Aimee said, "but the system is horrible. The VA made us feel so horrible, and we had no guidance to where to go or how to get anything done."
Tens of thousands of soldiers and Marines injured in Iraq and Afghanistan have come through the system, which is the largest health care provider in the nation. Many of those injured describe their initial care as first rate and life saving. But it's after that, they say, is where the problems begin.
One vet says the problems with the VA have remained under the collective radar for years.
"That's what's got me all stirred up, because I thought this was all fixed in the '70s and '80s," said Russ Caccamasi, who served in Vietnam. He was wounded during his service and said he was lucky because he had good health care from his job when he returned. But he is outraged that nothing has changed.
"It's an embarrassment. Absolutely, positively inexcusable and it's got to be fixed," he said.
An ABCNEWS.com message board user identified as "beakerless" said we need veteran advocates to help the individual veteran navigate how to get care. "The process a veteran must go through to get disability compensation is also horrific," beakerless wrote.
VA doctors who spoke with ABC News said that at the beginning of the war, the VA did not predict the new types of injuries it would have to treat from this conflict, and even the best in the VA were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of injured soldiers and Marines.
President Bush has begun an inquiry into the specific problems and complaints of poor facilities at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Former Republican Sen. Bob Dole, a wounded veteran of World War II and former secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala were chosen to lead the investigation.