President Barack Obama’s visit to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix was met by several hundred military veteran and civilian protesters on Friday, March 13.
Outraged by the president’s visit to the valley in January where his motorcade passed the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center without making a stop, veterans demanded the president pay a visit to the hospital.
Since a VA scandal broke out last summer, many changes have been made to the VA system but many veterans say they are not enough.
The protesters gathered to voice their opinions over the VA health care system as well as the president’s policies, including his stance on net neutrality, gun control, health care and his amnesty for illegal immigrants.
“We’ll spend money for doctors for illegals coming across the border, we’ll provide transportation, provide housing for them, but we won’t do that for our veterans,” said U.S. Army veteran Robert Hogan.
Mr. Hogan said the problem with the VA health care system is long wait times due to a lack of doctors and health care specialists, when, according to Mr. Hogan, doctors are hired to treat illegal immigrants.
Steve Cooper, a U.S. Army veteran who was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the Phoenix VA medical center in 2012, said the cancer could have been caught sooner if the VA health care system operated more efficiently, and said the entire VA system needs to be shut down.
“It’s very simple, we have to shut down the Phoenix VA and the entire VA system for that matter,” Mr. Cooper said. “The solution is simple, every veteran should be entitled to private health care anywhere in the world.”
Mr. Cooper stated that he believes the president’s visit was a “photo op” and that VA officials will brief him that things at the VA have changed and everything is working great when they really are not, according to Mr. Cooper.
Mr. Cooper was detained by VA security shortly after the president’s arrival while holding a sign with the words “The VA killed me.”
Seen wearing a red, white and blue bandana and waving a pro-gun flag, protester Nohl Rosen took to the megaphone to argue that President Obama be arrested and chanted the popular protest slogan “veterans before illegals.”
“This isn’t about protesting against our veterans, we love our veterans and we appreciate their service. We’re here against Obama,” Mr. Rosen said.
Mr. Rosen also said President Obama has “disrespected” the Constitution, U.S. citizens, law enforcement and the nation’s allies.
“A lot of people are protesting because President Obama is going to building 21 with a ‘who’s who’ list and not seeing regular veterans,” said U.S. Marine veteran Cindy Hutto.
“I’ve had appointments canceled and not been told, and come down here and find out they’ve been cancelled,” said Ms. Hutto. “I go with veterans that have been in the hospital here, there are sheets that have holes in them, beds that are broken… some of our veterans are falling through the cracks and not getting the help they need.”
Ms. Hutto said the VA needs to stop expanding and that funds should be placed into the health care system and more doctors need to collaborate on hard to diagnose cases.
Editor’s note: Brian Fore is a journalism student at the ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and wrote the article as a class assignment.