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      U.S. Rep. Cuellar responds to serious claims raised about VA facilities

      In the Rio Grande Valley many veterans are making serious claims about long waits at Veteran Affairs facilities about sub-par treatment. Now, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar is speaking out about the necessary changes. The congressman said veterans have already fought for our freedom and should not have to be fighting bureaucracy to get the medical services they deserve.

      An inspector general audit in 2012 turned up no wrong doing at the Harlingen VA, but given the recent deaths of 40 veterans who allegedly died while waiting to get treatment, Cuellar along with other members of congress signed a letter asking the VA to conduct an audit on scheduling practices. Cuellar said top administrators should be given the opportunity to correct the issues.

      He said veterans having to wait up to six months for an appointment is unacceptable.

      "We have to look at what the private sector does. For example, when you go to Disney World, there's long lines but they're able to move people rather quickly, so the same thing the VA has to find ways how we can move and treat the veterans in a much (faster) time," Cuellar said.

      Travel time has been cut by 90 percent because of the Harlingen VA facility, Cuellar said.

      Previously, veterans would have to travel to San Antonio.

      Cuellar adds the culture has to change and there must be a focus on customer service.

      Veterans are also waiting too long to get their benefits, Cuellar said.

      According to the congressman, bureaucrats wouldn TMt be willing to work without pay for 12 to 16 months, so veterans should not be forced to wait over a year either.