July 22, 2015
Joe Ducey, Courtney Holmes
GILBERT, AZ - Navy veteran Dennis Pruitt used to fly planes and ride motorcycles, now the Gilbert man says he can barely walk.
What started as a pinch in his ankle led to surgery at the Phoenix Veterans Administration hospital last year.
"They agreed that they would fuse the joint with some screws then they said you would be pain free," he says.
Screws were drilled through the heel of his foot but painful weeks followed.
He says the wound was infected. That meant emergency surgery and another stay at the VA.
This time he left with a gash in his throat, a skin condition, and a painful limp he never had before.
"They didn't do anything the fix me I'm worse," Dennis says.
The only answer was more surgery. He's been fighting to get it approved for a year.
"You can't get anybody on the phone you can't get anybody to call you back," he says.
Dennis had enough.
He called a local radio show to speak to Senator John McCain in April of this year, and says he was directed to contact his office.
Later that month he was given the okay to schedule a consultation with a surgeon.
In June, he had an appointment to meet the surgeon that he thought could get him some relief.
But the consultation didn't go as planned.
"The doctor says 'I have some bad news for you. All I'm authorized to do is basically trim your nails and your calluses and basically put a piece of tape on your ankle'," Dennis explained.
Dennis didn't believe him, but he had the authorization paper to prove it.
"I said is this a joke? I don't need a pedicure, I need surgery," he says.
Dennis let me know. So who dropped the ball at the VA?
Once we let them know, the VA was quick to contact Dennis, but got no real answers.
VA spokesperson Jean Schaffer sent a statement saying "We're conducting a review of the care provided and reviewing the processes involved in his care."
Congressman Matt Salmon says his office has been working closely with Dennis, even going with Dennis to the VA for answers.
But he says his office get stories like Dennis' all the time.
"If you back off for one minute, they're not going to follow through," Salmon tells me.
"I continue to be extremely frustrated in my dealings with the VA," he says. "It shouldn't require involvement from a congressman to be treated right."
On Wednesday, Dennis was cleared for surgery by his doctor. Now he has to wait, again, for final approval from the VA.
We'll let you know how long it takes this time.
Unfortunately Dennis' story is not uncommon. But there are ways you can help. You can volunteer with the Voluntary Services Department of the VA. The group helps vets directly with their care at the hospital. Find out how to help here.