Twin brothers Ronnie, left, and Richard Abrams say the VA in Phoenix turned its back on them after the Vietnam War. (Source: CBS 5 News)
PEORIA, AZ (CBS5) -
Some veterans fortunate enough to have private insurance have not had to deal with problems at the Phoenix VA Medical Center, even though they're entitled to free medical care from the VA.
Twin brothers who served in Vietnam tell CBS 5 News if they had to wait on the Phoenix VA, they'd probably be dead.
Richard and twin brother Ronnie Abrams just turned 64 years old. Both served in Vietnam between 1969 and 70. Richard Abrams was in the Army, while Ronnie Abrams served in the Marines.
They left home in New York and went to basic training three days apart. Both are presumed by the government to have been exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam. Both claim workers at the Phoenix VA Hospital turned their back on them.
"When I had the cancer, we kept calling, calling and calling. No answer," said Richard Abrams.
"There used to be a sign. You were there for us. Were here for you," said Ronnie Abrams. "That s*** is gone man. For six or seven years. It's in the basement."
Last year, Richard Abrams was diagnosed with throat cancer. His brother supported him through every radiation treatment. And then the tables were turned.
"I called him up, same year and said, 'Guess what, I got lung cancer," said Ronnie Abrams.
The brothers both qualified for 100 percent treatment at the Phoenix VA hospital, but they say going their own way is why they're both alive today.
"No, I wouldn't have made it," said Richard Abrams. "I wouldn't have made it past ... I was stage two."
After serving their country, Richard Abrams worked 29 years with the Teamsters and Ronnie Abrams worked for the Post Office.
They have their own insurance and didn't have to rely on the VA.
"Their attitude is you ain't payin for nothing. These veterans are paying for it 20 times over," said Richard Abrams.
Richard Abrams says he did file a claim with the VA to be reimbursed. He says he's been waiting 17 months for a response.
CBS 5 News reached out to VA for comment.
"Our longstanding policy is to not address specific patient care inquiries out of respect for patients and their families," VA spokesman Scott McRoberts said in a statement.
Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
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