Veteran dies waiting for VA appointment in Houston, family says

Family: Vietnam War veteran dies waiting for appointment at VA Medical Center

By Bill Spencer - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - George Barraza love two things in this life: playing the electric guitar with all his heart and this country.

During the Vietnam War, Barraza proudly served in the U.S. Army.

But on April 16, Barraza, a father of three girls, a chef and an American veteran, died waiting for an appointment at the VA Medical Center in Houston.

At the time of his death, Barraza was battling heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. But his problems became much worse in September when he went to the Michael Debakey VA Medical Center in terrible pain and unable to move his hands at all.

"They said, 'Oh, that looks like it hurts, let me give you some pain medication and send you on home,'" said Barraza's daughter, Georgia Barraza who complains the VA staff did not treat her father's problem that day by admitting him and caring for him, but instead gave him pain medication and an appointment to come back.

The very next day, she said Barraza had to be rushed to another hospital outside the VA system to Methodist Hospital Sugar Land, where he was immediately admitted and treated for close to a week.

Over the next several months, family members said Barraza began to decline physically and he did go to the VA for various tests and other help.

But in March family members said Barraza was suddenly rushed to Methodist Hospital again. This time he was vomiting blood and doctors told him he had a tumor or growth on his liver.

Barraza's family said doctors at that hospital told Barraza he had to get to the VA right away, it was very serious and he needed treatment.

But the very next day, when they took him to the VA Hospital, they said again Barraza was not treated or admitted to the hospital. Instead he was given more prescription medicines and given an appointment more than a month away on May 5.

Barraza died April 16.

Local 2 asked Dr. James Scheurich, deputy chief of staff at the VA Medical Center in Houston, why Barraza was not treated.

"It's within the guidelines and we do the best we can, that was the open appointment," said Scheurich. "A lot of our staff are veterans and our whole mission is taking care of veterans, and we do the best we can for every one of them."

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