• Veterans' families blame VA center on deaths

    By: Janna Clark

    Updated:

    Quick Facts:

    • Some veteran’s families say a veteran’s center is to blame for their loved one’s deaths
    • They all say staff didn’t send their loved ones to the hospital in time
    • One says staff burned her husband to death in the bathtub
    • Physician’s assistant going to prison, VA paid a settlement
    • FOX23 is getting answers from the VA

    Family members blame the Claremore Veterans Center for their loved ones' deaths.

    FOX23 investigative reporter Janna Clark is digging into what happened to those veterans at the center.

    The center is a nursing home for veterans. FOX23 talked to three family members who said their veterans suffered and died "because of the care" they got at the center.

    Leta Rector's dad, Clifford Rector - who everyone called Tip, fought in World War II.

    “He was a gunner,” she said.

    Frances Minter's husband, Jay, got drafted into the Army.

    “He went first to Philippines and picked up dead bodies,” she said.

    Glenna Hisely's dad, Louis Arterberry, joined the Navy and risked his life to save others.

    “He ran through flames to rescue men out of crashed airplanes,” she said.

    All three veterans were living at the VA Center in Claremore when things went wrong.

    Last fall, Leta noticed her dad, Tip, wasn't breathing right.

    “I kept saying, ‘I hear there's fluid in his lungs, they said no,” said Leta.

    She was so worried she sent an email saying ‘I told the nurse there's fluid in his lungs.’

    Leta said staff did nothing about it for a couple weeks until finally they diagnosed Tip with pneumonia.

    They put in an oxygen tube and started antibiotics.

    “They have professional doctors, they should have said he needs to go to the emergency room,” she said.

    Medical records show, "Going to hospital at family's request."

    Leta said it took 24 hours to get him there.

    “It was pretty well set he wasn't going to make it,” she said.

    Tip died in the hospital from pneumonia.

    “Do you blame the VA for your father's death?” Clark asked.

    “Yes,” Leta said.

    “I think it's a disgrace,” said Glenna.

    Glenna has a similar story. Her dad, Louis, had a stroke at 11 p.m. one night in 2012. The nurse made a note and tried to call the doctor.

    “They called all night?” Clark asked.

    “Yes,” said Glenna.

    She said the doctor never came and her father laid there all night.

    “He had a stroke and they just left him alone?” Clark asked.

    “Yeah,” Glenna said.

    She said the next morning another doctor sent Louis to the hospital. By then he was in a coma. He lived a week and never woke up.

    “He should've had a chance but he didn't. He had no chance,” Glenna said.

    FOX23 found out the reason that doctor didn't answer the phone that night.

    “He was trying to find a sexual liaison.  That's in the court papers,” said Glenna.

    That doctor was charged with second-degree manslaughter but accepted a plea bargain in April. He’ll spend 90 days in jail.

    “I would like him to spend 90 years in jail not 90 days,” Glenna said.

    The same doctor took care of Frances Minter's husband, Jay.

    “Your husband suffered a lot?” Clark asked.

    “He did,” Frances said.

    “In the hands of the VA?” Clark asked.

    “He did,” Francis answered.

    She says a nurse was giving him in a bath.

    “She went off and left the water running,” Frances said.

    The water was way too hot... Documents show the temp got higher than 130 degrees and scalded Jay with second-degree burns over 50 percent of his body.

    She showed Clark photos of Jay’s skin falling off which are too horrible to share here.

    “When I saw it I went into shock,” she said.

    “Did they take him to the hospital?” Clark asked.

    “No,” Frances said.

    Jay died hours later at the VA center.

    “Your husband was scalded to death?” Clark asked.

    “Right. The only words we had is he said ‘They burned my legs, they burned my legs,’ the only thing I said was ‘Honey.’ I will find out who did this,” Frances said.

    The doctor was also convicted of a misdemeanor for what happened to Jay and the state paid both Frances and Glenna's families a settlement.

    FOX23 asked for an on camera interview but the VA Center refused. Instead they gave this statement:

    “While I can't comment on these individual cases, I can tell you the health and safety of our residents has been and will remain our number one priority."

    “He cried all the time to come back home, so I live with that,” Frances said. “If I had to do it over, I wouldn’t put him in there.”

    “You promised the veterans we will take could care of you, and they didn't,” Leta said.

    “These things go on in a veteran center, you trust them to take care of your veteran. These are honored men. They are heroes,” said Glenna.

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