ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – An 8 On Your Side investigation into why the Department of Veterans Affairs failed a Pinellas County veteran has two Congressman demanding answers.
Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R) FL and Rep. Charlie Crist (D) FL want to know why doctors at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center couldn’t figure out what was wrong with Mike Henry.
They also want to know if this veteran was mistreated while he was a patient at Bay Pines.
Mike Henry told 8 On Your Side that one VA doctor called him a faker and drug seeker and even grabbed and shook him.
The VA says it investigated that allegation but can’t confirm it.
After months of tests it also couldn’t confirm what was wrong with Mike Henry.
Congressman Gus Bilirakis labels it VA incompetence.
“It’s inexcusable for the veteran to have that type of pain,” Rep. Bilirakis said.
Following 8 On Your Side’s Thursday report detailing the inability of Bay Pines to diagnose Henry’s problem, Congressman Crist is reaching out “to ensure he is receiving the medical care, support and assistance he needs.”
So is Bilirakis.
“I’ll go over to his house and talk to him personally,” explained the congressman.
“That way I get a better understanding of what happened and I hear directly from him and his wife and then we’ll go to work for him.”
Henry’s medical issues flared up in June.
Severe swelling in his shoulder, neck, and face, caused excruciating pain.
Why couldn’t VA doctors figure it out?
In an email Bay Pines told us, “The symptoms Mr. Henry presented….were evaluated…laboratory tests and imaging results were not conclusive.”
Nonetheless a VA doctor concluded, “This patient has no active neurological disease to require further attention from our neurology service.”
“I’m thinking I’m going to sit here and die,” Henry stated.
He left Bay Pines and went to Tampa General Hospital.
Within an hour, doctors quickly determined a neurological problem triggered uncontrollable muscle contractions.
According to Henry, one VA doctor called him a faker and a drug seeker.
“Then he grabs me right here, my neck was swollen, and he’s shaking me around and then I said, ‘what are you doing? Are you crazy?’ He goes, ‘oh you’re talking normal now, you’re just a faker, I told you that’s what you were,'” Henry explained.
The VA contends it investigated the allegation and could not substantiate it.
His wife Shelly says Henry suffered tremendously at the VA.
“It breaks my heart to see that happen to anybody, especially him and especially veterans,” Shelly explained.
“The way veterans are treated, they’re treated like garbage. They’re treated like garbage in this country, especially by the VA. It’s really sad.”
An email from Bay Pines claims it offered to refer Henry to outside specialists but he declined.
He contends that is just not true. He says the VA did not approve visits its doctors recommended.
An email sent to the Bay Pines Chief of Staff by Shelly pointed out they ran up medical costs of close to $200,000 visiting outside specialists.
The VA states Henry left the hospital against medical advice.
Nursing notes show his attending physician said, “they’ve tried everything, now they will try nothing and see how bad it gets.”
At that point, Henry decided it was time to leave.