Vets: VA’s Care of Veterans Impeded by Filming of TV Series, Conference

Conference included party planning tips, ‘What Color is Your Personality?’ session

The set of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" / AP
June 24, 2014

The filming of a TV series that took over the entire second floor of a Los Angeles VA center and conferences attended by VA health care providers—which included topics on how to plan a party—contributed to the delay of care for veterans, according to interviews with VA staffers and veterans.

Dr. Roy Marokus, who currently serves in private practice, told the Free Beacon that veterans were denied care because of a mandatory conference he attended last March.

Marokus said veterans’ appointments were cancelled so VA medical providers could attend the two-day conference. Medical providers at the VA Medical Center in Oklahoma City, where Marokus briefly worked, and providers at all other VA medical centers in the Veterans Integrated Services Network, attended the conference.

A review of the paperwork handed out during the conference showed topics included advice on how to plan a party and asked the medical staff to explore, "What Color is Your Personality?"

"Veterans waiting for appointments got pushed back for two days," Marokus said. "In human costs, you have all these veterans. Why was that conference needed? … Many veterans had their treatments delayed for two days while their healthcare providers determined ‘what color’ their personalities were."

The conference "made the serious topic of veterans’ care into a farce, covering topics without merit at taxpayers’ and veterans’ expense," said Marokus, a veteran who served in Iraq. He was employed by the VA for only 16 days before initially being "discharged"; his status was later changed to "resigned." He was accused of making a racial slur, but said another doctor actually made the slur.

The Oklahoma City VA Medical Center sent an email statement indicating the Patient Aligned Care Teams model of care was implemented at primary care clinics in March 2013.

"Every Primary Care provider along with the nurses and program support assistants attended a meeting in which they learned about the PACT model, how it differed from the current healthcare delivery model at that time and how we were planning to transition," the statement read.

"The same meeting was offered on several occasions so that our Primary Care clinics were never closed. The meetings were also scheduled in advance so that clinics could be blocked for continuing education time and patients needing to be seen urgently could be seen by another physician or through our urgent care clinic or emergency room," the OKC VA Center said.

Another veteran took issue with the filming of the TV show Grey’s Anatomy, which takes place at the Sepulveda VA Ambulatory Care Center. The filming encompasses the entire second floor of the facility.

Veterans who need care are limited to the first floor of the facility.

Gary B., who asked for his last name to be withheld due to a pending 1151 claim with the VA, said aside from the limited care for veterans, the show’s trailers are an inconvenience for veterans.

"They take up the whole parking lot," he said. He questioned why the show couldn’t be shot during the weekend, and why the VA couldn’t hire more doctors to administer care on the second floor.

A recent audit showed the VA Center in Sepulveda is now one of the 81 sites that "requires further review." Scheduling issues and access were cited in the audit.

The West Los Angeles Medical Center did not respond to a request for comment.

Gary B. also said a delay in care at the Phoenix VA contributed to his cancer spreading. He was initially seen for a pin-sized spot on his lip. After ordering a biopsy, the center cancelled four to six subsequent appointments.

The spot on his lip grew to be the size of a "firecracker," the veteran said. When he was finally seen again, the cancer spread to his lymph nodes. He has already had three surgeries and 51 percent of his lip removed.

"They said they thought it was cancer, but they kept delaying my treatment," Gary said.

"No one is at the VA because that is their choice. They are there because it’s the only thing they can afford. The VA isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity," Gary said. He cited the three "Ds" of the VA many veterans speak of—"deny, delay, deceased."

Los Angeles VA spokesman Jeff Blake denied that the show's filming was adversely affecting patient care in an email to the Free Beacon.

"The VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System enjoys a productive relationship with the television series Grey’s Anatomy, which periodically films in portions of our Sepulveda Ambulatory Care Center during evenings, weekends, and holidays (two to four times per year), and which never impacts our ability to provide exceptional care to our veterans," Blake said. "On the contrary, our relationship with Grey’s Anatomy has resulted in numerous improvements to the Sepulveda facility, as well as several instances of the production actually enhancing veterans’ access to care by purchasing medical equipment for our clinics.  These are just a few examples of the direct benefits Veterans receive as a result of our engagement with the signature industry of our region."