Veterans organization takes VA concerns to Washington


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Veterans told WWAY concerns over water contaminants at the Wilmington VA Clinic are the latest in a list of complaints against the organization. The Concerned Veterans for America took these and other concerns to the Washington last week in the hopes of finally getting Veterans Affairs reform.

“You know one of the headline issues that we have this year is the VA. It’s clearly a dysfunctional bureaucracy,” said John Byrnes, the local director of Concerned Veterans for America.

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Byrnes said long wait times and potentially unhealthy conditions are in the list of problems with the VA.

“From simple things just like keeping clean water in a clinic. In a medical clinic. It’s problematic,” said Byrnes.

This month, Byrnes traveled to the nation’s capital backing legislation called the Veterans Independence Act.

“Which would reinforce the choice card, which would if it was being used properly would allow the veterans who are here who are affected by this water problem to go out into Wilmington and get health care locally,” said Byrnes.

Byrnes said health care outside the VA is something many veterans want.

“90% of veterans that we talk to say they want more choice in how they get their health care,” said Byrnes.

He said incidents like contaminated water here in Wilmington only enhance that desire.

So what are some of the health risks of the reported water issues? UNCW Assistant Professor Dr. Susanne Brander said exposure to metals like iron, copper, and lead could have negative health effects.

“Lead is a pretty potent neorotoxin. You hear about it in regards to children, but it’s also an issue for adults particularly older adults who are already impacted by other diseases. Iron and copper both cause GI tract irritation,” said Brander.

Brander said it is hard to say for sure what effects are possible without knowing how long someone was exposed to the contaminants and about their pre-existing health concerns.