• FOX23 INVESTIGATION: Veteran stunned by how he found out about cancer diagnosis

    By: Janna Clark

    Updated:

    Quick Facts:

    • A veteran diagnosed by cancer told FOX23 how he found out is inexcusable.
    • He was in and out of Oklahoma VA Hospitals with no diagnosis.
    • After a biopsy, when his family called to get results, they called and called but couldn't get those results for 5 days.
    • Turns out, all the while the VA had the results, but no one called to tell the veteran.
    • The family says the miscommunication is disrespectful.
    • WATCH the original investigation and an update ABOVE. 

    After FOX23 Janna Clark's original investigation in February 2018, the VA took action and sent FOX23 this statement:
     

    "The allegations in Ms. Miller’s letter are extremely serious and, if true, are absolutely unacceptable.

     

    VA will investigate each and every one of them and, if warranted, take appropriate actions to ensure any problems identified are fixed and any staff responsible are held accountable.

     

    The attending physician involved in this case has already been stripped of his leadership responsibilities and more accountability actions are possible, if warranted.

    We have also reached out to Ms. Miller to schedule a meeting between her and medical leadership from both VA Medical Centers. 

     

    Our hearts go out to Ms. Miller and the rest of Mr. Burkart’s family during this difficult time.”

     

    A veteran was diagnosed with cancer by a VA doctor, but no one from the VA notified the veteran nor the family.


    Robert Burkart and his family, like daughter Staci Miller, found out Burkart was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer that spread throughout his body.


    But Miller says the way they found out - is inexcusable.


    “It’s really disappointing,” Miller said.


    Burkart says it started with horrific pain.


    “It was a lot of sharp shooting pain in my chest,” Burkart said.


    Burkart went to the VA Muskogee Hospital, but they discharged him with no diagnosis. Then he started spitting up blood. He spent 5 days at the Oklahoma City VA hospital. They ran tests, including a biopsy. But again, the VA discharged Burkart with no answers. 

     

    Miller says the next week her family called 23 times to get the biopsy results.  She says the VA told her family over and over again - "no results yet."


    She says they asked to speak with the doctor or his staff and were told they could not.


    FOX23: “Why?”

     

    Miller: “I don't know, that's what we're asking.”

     

    FOX23: “When you were on the phone with the VA do you feel they cared about your situation? “

    Miller:   “absolutely not… six times they hung up on us."

     

    "I feel let down, you can't get ahold of anybody when you need them. they leave you hanging,” Burkart said.


    Then Burkart got the worst news possible - by accident - in a call from his primary care doctor, not from the VA.


    “She said something about chemo, and my son was talking to her and said wait a minute-  you mean my dad has cancer? And she said, you don't know?” Burkart said.


    FOX23 asked the VA for Burkart’s medical records and waited a month to get them.


    In the records, it says the doctor had the cancer diagnosis the same day Burkart was discharged from the hospital.


    For 5 days, the VA had the info but didn’t inform the family, the whole time the family made all those phone calls.


    Burkart: “They kept it a big secret or lied to us.”

    FOX23: “What makes you say they lied to you?”
    Burkart: “Because they kept saying the results wasn't in.”
    FOX23: “What’s the most upsetting part of this whole thing?”

    Miller: “The lack of communication and the disrespect from the VA… So many are falling are through the cracks because their system is messed up and not enough people care.”


    FOX23 asked the VA how this happened, they did not do an interview but sent this statement:

     

    "This situation involved a breakdown of communication, for which we sincerely apologize.  Regional VA leaders will be reviewing inter-facility communication processes and are mounting a full-scale review of the Veteran’s care at both the Muskogee and Oklahoma City VA medical centers.  We will work directly with the family to resolve their concerns."

     

     

    Previous coverage:

    FOX23 Investigates: New report details issues with Veteran's Choice program 

    FOX23 Investigates: Veterans' families blame VA center on deaths 

     


     

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