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Disabled Army veteran blasts care received at Augusta VA

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Ronald Sharp still has flashbacks to the 28 combat explosions he endured in Afghanistan, but he said the nightmare that haunts him most is the treatment he received at the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Ronald Sharp, a disabled Army veteran from Aiken County, says the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center delayed care and dismissed his concerns.  WESLEY BROWN/STAFF
Ronald Sharp, a disabled Army veteran from Aiken County, says the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center delayed care and dismissed his concerns.

From March to September 2013, the disabled Army veteran from Aiken County showed up four times to the Augusta hospital complaining of pain in his rectum and blood in his stool. He went to the emergency room twice in tears because he could not sit, he said, but was told the first time in August that there was nothing wrong and then a month later that the problem was hemorrhoids.

After waiting six months to see a specialist, he finally saw a gastroenterologist Sept. 27. A lesion was noted, but Sharp said the doctor recommended that he “live with the pain” for another two months because the success rate of a colonoscopy was minimal and could leave him incontinent.

The 49-year-old believes he would have died had he taken the advice.

Nine veterans have died and 15 others have had conditions worsen at VA hospitals in Augusta and Columbia from management delaying more than 7,500 gastrointestinal referrals.

Sharp contacted the office of U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., for help in getting private medical bills reimbursed, but despite the Repub­lican’s pressing, the Augusta VA refused to pay for the colonoscopy he received at Aiken Regional Me­dical Centers that found five polyps, one of which was pre-cancerous.

Sharp filed a claim with the VA’s Regional Counsel in Atlanta on July 7 for $100,000 in pain and suffering damages and the $18,768 he incurred in medical bills for anesthesia, surgery, lab tests and doctor’s visits in Aiken.

He said he’s been told it will be six months before his case is concluded, but that he has a strong case.

“This procedure should have been done by the VA, and they should have paid for it,” Sharp said. “They’re transferring debt to someone who doesn’t deserve it.”

Dr. Carolyn Clancy, the VA’s interim undersecretary for health, told the House Committee on Veterans Affairs earlier this month in a letter that the Augusta VA’s gastrointestinal issues stemmed from a lack of providers, tracking mechanisms and a risk-based triage system in the clinic.

She said by addressing all consult requests in a week, and hiring two additional physicians and a full-time clinical nurse leader, the hospital has resolved all delays in gastrointestinal care.

Sharp said his case suggests the program has yet to eliminate its greatest flaw – the “three bloody show” rule.

The practice of not giving colon scopes until the patient experiences three blood discharges is still being used by Augusta staff, Sharp wrote the VA’s Regional Counsel.

“This archaic practice is a dollars-and-cents approach that risked my life, and it is an insult to the honor and integrity of service-connected veterans,” Sharp said in his deposition. “It is a foul, unholy system the VA has let take reign in their hallways and to cruelly make these kinds of decisions demands investigation. It is monstrous.”

Augusta VA spokesman Pete Scovill said that because Sharp’s claim is within the jurisdiction of a tort claim, it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the matter at this time.

Sharp is convinced he will win the benefits he was promised for conducting bomb-clearance missions in mine-protected vehicles in the Army from 2010 to 2011 at Afghanistan’s Forward Operating Base Sharana. Though the former combat engineer is technically still in the National Guard on a medical hold status until his discharge papers are finalized, he is listed as “incapacitated.” He receives 80 percent disability from the VA for post-traumatic stress disorder and injuries to his lower back, knees, feet, right leg and shoulder. He hopes to get 100 percent disability for his lungs and gastrointestinal system being exposed to poisonous chemicals he inhaled from batteries and electronics that an Army inspector general report says was improperly burned in open-air pits near his base in Afghanistan.

While he waits, the 2013 federal handbook for veteran benefits states that he’s eligible for “enhanced enrollment” for five years and entitled to “receive VA care and medication at no cost for any condition that may be related to their combat service.”

Sharp, however, was not seen in the VA’s now-eliminated two-week wait period for new patients, nor was he scheduled within the 60-day goal for diagnostic colonoscopies. In fact, 380 consults for diagnostic procedures were identified in a department review as beyond 60 days.

Sharp had a colonoscopy scheduled in the private sector a week after he sought outside consultation in Aiken. Besides polyps, an ulcer and diverticulitis hole was found in his colon.

Financial statements show Sharp’s insurance paid 80 percent ($16,552) of the procedure’s related costs and he was to take care of the remaining $2,216.

Sharp said Aiken Region­al waived collection to allow him to negotiate an agreement with the VA, but he said the hospital’s patient advocate told him to file a complaint against the gastroenterologist and that its director, Bob Hamilton, wouldn’t listen to Wilson.

“I have to beg and plead to get the VA to do what they supposed to do. They would’ve killed me through inaction,” he said.

Sharp said he hopes progress is made and that the status quo is a betrayal to him, his family and veterans.

“The fact is I was promised health care by the United States of America,” he said. “It seems that was a lie.”

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myfather15 08/03/14 - 05:34 am
Yes, government management

Yes, government management hard at work!!

geecheeriverman 08/03/14 - 06:03 am

The US Congress should be totally embarrassed by the way our VETERANS are being treated. They could care less because they have the greatest health care available, at no cost.

corgimom 08/03/14 - 06:31 am
$100,000 for pain and

$100,000 for pain and suffering???


I suspect that a significant portion of Mr. Sharp's problems is not due to military service and is more related to his morbid obesity, which is a major risk factor in GI problems, including polyps. And Mr. Sharp failed to mention that he is a terrible surgical risk due to his obesity.

Why does Mr. Sharp want to get reimbursed for $18,768 and not $2,216?

jimmymac 08/03/14 - 06:33 am

Disband the VA and give the vets a stipend to buy the healthcare of their own choice. Situations like this and others that have killed vets would be eliminated.

JimS 08/03/14 - 07:14 am
Pony Up Citizens Served!!

There's no 'deal' on this issue, it's just more obstruction and shirking of responsibility, DeJa-Vu for decades now and wars from, by the people served, Poser Patriots, through their hired representatives and leading to the want to privatize for corporate profit built on then bigger budgets from lawmakers!!

Rep Miller and Sen Burr, i.e Conservatives: There should never be NO Negotiations, NOR Offsets, Like Your Rubber Stamped For Corporate Profit Wars, Through Their Representatives on Veterans Issues, the Responsibility of the 99% Served!!

“Why in 2009 were we still using paper?” VA Assistant Secretary Tommy Sowers “When we came in, there was no plan to change that; we’ve been operating on a six month wait for over a decade.” 27 March 2013

Prior too this present Executive and Veterans administrations, with two wars dumped into their laps and virtually nothing done for the veterans of and once again veterans of previous decades and wars from:

October 23, 2008 - And now VA investigators are trying to figure out if this one-time survey points to the likelihood that documents have been improperly destroyed for months or even years.

"Whatever this problem is, it didn't just start in the last two weeks," said Dave Autry, a spokesman for Disabled American Veterans. "It'd be unreasonable to assume that. Who knows what's been destroyed."

The documents, which didn't have duplicates at the VA, would have been critical in deciding veteran pension and disability claims. As a result, many veterans are asking whether their delayed or denied claims were affected by lost paperwork. read more>>>

Oct 16, 2008 - VA claims found in piles to be shredded

October 24, 2008 - House panel will target VA shredding

February 11, 2009 - Veterans' Claims Found in Shredder Bins

ProPublica and The Seattle Times Nov. 9, 2012 - Lost to History: Missing War Records Complicate Benefit Claims by Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans
"DeLara's case is part of a much larger problem that has plagued the U.S. military since the 1990 Gulf War: a failure to create and maintain the types of field records that have documented American conflicts since the Revolutionary War."

Army Says War Records Gap Is Real, Launches Recovery Effort

And the just above is just recent history, not all that has been for decades and wars from!!

"If military action is worth our troops’ blood, it should be worth our treasure, too" "not just in the abstract, but in the form of a specific ante by every American." -Andrew Rosenthal 10 Feb. 2013

These present wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, after abandoning the missions and those sent to accomplish so quickly after 9/11 to invade another, have yet to be paid for!!

USN All Shore '67-'71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country '70-'71 - Independent**

JimS 08/03/14 - 07:15 am
Conservative loooong time Obstruction

Present: More Time Passes While Veterans Wait - Past: Decades & Wars From = DeJa-Vu

VA Bill Next Stop: President Obama's Desk ... FINALLY!!

The five Republicans in the House of obstruction, especially in paying for the wars and the long term results of, DeJa-Vu, who voted no on the still obstructed and grossly under funded needs, decades and wars from now, watered down once again, bill: Rick Crawford (Ark.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Jack Kingston (Ga.), Mark Sanford (S.C.) and Steve Stockman (Texas). Joining these Senators: Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) , who had voted 'Nay' weeks back while the House delayed after!! None having any problems, Poser Patriots, in rubber stamping All the war costs, no mention of offsets, including the no bid private contracts, off the books till administrations changed and all borrowed, yet to be paid back!!

Was it Politics, to feed the Conservative 'scandal' needs especially in the Rep Miller House Veterans Affairs Committee attack hearings, or Greed Brought into VA Facilities{?} Where politics nor greed should ever cross those thresholds!!

Under Gen Shinseki, with a target on him after speaking military truth and the bush admin firing him with cheers from the supporters of, and with help from the entire Executive Branch and it's Cabinet, long ignored, Poser Patriots easy out to not Sacrifice, and some denied issues were being addressed. PTS, Agent Orange, Other War Theater Contamination's, Gulf War Syndrome, Homelessness, Jobs, Upgrading and adding new National Cemeteries as well as upgrading and adding new clinics and Veterans facilities {Thanks in a big part to the job creating during economic collapse Recovery Funds!}, adding much needed mental health care professionals for the long ignored PTS and more, to name but only a very few from decades and wars of in past to the present as these two wars, quickly abandoning the missions and those sent to accomplish after 9/11, were brought to an end. Also being addressed was the very slowing advance of, in the new 21st century, record keeping and more technology as the funds to stay advanced were obstructed in previous, as well as present, budgets.

This Administration, and it's Cabinet, they don't do the peoples purse strings, has been the 'Only Government Branch' consistently doing not only for Veterans but Military Personal and their Families since coming in!!

The responsibility of those served not maintained, obvious in this past decade plus especially, two tax cuts with two more wars, especially for the wealthy served, in taking care of those who served them.

These present wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, after abandoning the missions and those sent to accomplish so quickly after 9/11 to invade another, have yet to be paid for!!

Now it's time to for Tea Party Republicans, All along with the rest in full support of everything under the bush, to pay a price for standing in the way of legislation, decades long time obstruction and seeking VA budget cuts, that will save veterans' lives.

Here's hoping that All that the Gen Shinseki VA administration started addressing, with full help from the Executive Administration, not only as to the present Veterans, already ignored issues, returning but the past decades and wars from ignored or denied Veterans issue's continues, and more, and those served fulfill their Responsibility, Finally, going forward. And the Conservative dream of privatizing for corporate profit, Congress then can build the needed bottom lines with bigger budgets and added fee's then, is never brought to completion!!

USN All Shore '67-'71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country '70-'71 - Independent**

billcass 08/03/14 - 07:58 am

His obesity is due to the fact that he can't exercise because of what the VA did to him. Don't be so quick to judge.

LillyfromtheMills 08/03/14 - 08:06 am

Thank goodness the govt takes better care of you!

curly123053 08/03/14 - 08:21 am
Our Vets Deserve Respect

Corgi needs to STOP with her profane statements since she does not know all the facts here ! Take your little brain and realize that this man served his country and was incapacitated in the line of duty. He deserves 200% care by you, me, and every other American for his service to America. He could not have done the things he needed to do in the Army if he was obese, plus the Army would never allow it. Corgi, you owe this veteran an apology for your insulting remarks.
Also, the government needs to get OUT of healthcare period. They are failing our Vets and there is way to much bureaucracy associated with getting timely help and treatments for our Vets.

GuyGene 08/03/14 - 09:22 am
I'm with you, bro...

And thank you too for serving us all! Vietnam vet here, and I surely understand a bit of what ye've been through. I just wish the gubmint would allow us to use the service connected VA cards we have in our wallets now at any hospital and doctor we choose. Problem solved.

Little Old Lady
Little Old Lady 08/03/14 - 10:06 am
Future Obamacare

This is what the future holds for us under Obamacare.

corgimom 08/03/14 - 05:45 pm
There is no way that I am

There is no way that I am apologizing.

He is trying to stick the government for money.

$100,000 pain and suffering??? REALLY??? For hemorrhoids?

He went to the ER twice because he couldn't sit? So you take a sitz bath (they are cheap at the drugstore), you use witch hazel wipes, and you buy a donut to sit on. And you take some stool softeners. And you change your diet.

Every woman that has ever had a baby could tell him that.

I have never heard of a colonoscopy making someone incontinent, but hemorrhoid surgery runs a big risk of that. And colonoscopies are very effective in detecting problems, but hemorrhoid surgery is not very effective. That made me wonder about what he was saying, right there.

You don't know all the facts either, curly and billcass. You are accepting everything that man says as the truth, and the VA doesn't get to present their side. How do you know that he can't exercise, because there's nothing in the story that says that? Swimming? Riding an exercise bike?

Can anybody tell me why he is asking the VA to reimburse him the full cost of the surgery, when he was only liable for 20%?

Just because he was a veteran doesn't mean he gets to stick it to the government.

For most people, if you live long enough, you get polyps. One was precancerous. My husband, who has a family history of colon cancer, was the same way. Who should he sue?

"He hopes to get 100% disability...for his gastrointestinal problems"

Colon polyps, diverticulitis, and hemorrhoids is a reason for 100% disability?

Because if that was true, over 1/2 of the US population over 50 would qualify.

And if somebody thinks I'm "insulting", they are free to think that. Because that money doesn't come from the government. It comes from you, me, and every other taxpayer. It comes from US. Is there anybody on here that thinks that they don't pay enough in taxes and wants to pay more?

$100,000 for pain and suffering. For hemorrhoids.

Now I have heard it all.

Gage Creed
Gage Creed 08/03/14 - 06:41 pm

Morbid Obesity vs. Morbid Stupidity...

After consulting Ron White... You can't fix stupid.

TheMentor 08/04/14 - 08:11 am
The DVA in action

Here's another example of the DVA making arbitrary decisions that are flat out wrong.
Exposure to Agent Orange has been linked to numerous health problems, including non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, prostate cancer, Type II Diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and other issues. In 1991, legislation was enacted that empowered the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to declare certain illnesses "presumptive" to exposure to Agent Orange and enabled Vietnam veterans to receive disability compensation for these related conditions. However, in 2002, the VA limited the authority of the Act to only those veterans who could provide orders for "boots on the ground" in Vietnam. As a result, veterans who served in the waters off the coast of Vietnam were forced to file individual claims with the VA to restore their benefits, which are then decided on a case-by-case basis. After 40 years the evidence needed for these Veterans to obtain benefits no longer exists. Please help correct this inequity.

I urge you, the public, to communicate to Representative Jeff Miller R-FL, the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, that HR 543, The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2013, now has 241 cosponsors. Call Phone: (202) 225-4136.
This is enough for a discharge petition to force it to the House floor. This would be an embarrassing situation to this committee. After 14 years of being disenfranchised by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Blue Water Navy deserves its day on the House floor for a vote.

The estimate is that 36,000 Veterans of the Blue Water Navy are being denied health care today. With the fiasco facing this nation with the deaths of Veterans in care of the DVA, let’s not add to the count.

Perhaps the plight of the Vietnam Blue Water Navy Veterans who have died because of a DVA ruling on herbicide exposure should be considered wrongful deaths and be brought up on civil charges!

For more information on exposure and the DVA read A Re-Analysis of Blue Water Navy Veterans and Agent Orange Exposure at

BrokenPhone 12/31/14 - 03:28 pm
Unfortunately, I know this

Unfortunately, I know this individual all too well, He is a scammer, he will do anything to get one over on the system. I have seen many worthless people in my life but this guy by far is the laziest!! Sure he did go to Afghanistan, did he want to…..NO. He was lazy before and after going overseas. He finally got his way and now has 100% disability from the government and we as tax payers will be footing his and his families bills for the rest of his useless existence. Have you ever had a coworker that you just couldn’t stand and when they finally told you they were leaving it was hard to not SMILE and CHEER!!! This is that guy. You might think it’s just my bad attitude but it wasn’t just me it was hundreds of people that felt the exact same way but they second you try and call him on his BS, he would pull the Veteran Card on you. if he ever didn’t get his way, the first thing was, “oh they must not like veterans! This place discriminates against veterans”…..blah blah blah, shut you fat face AND DO SO WORK!

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