Veteran denied surgery from VA turns to congressman for help: 'I was literally losing my mind'

"It should not take a member of congress to get involved in helping a veteran," said Congressman Ken Calvert.

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Friday, February 18, 2022
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The Vietnam veteran says the VA hospital made a mistake during surgery and he only got help after contacting a congressman.

CORONA, Calif. (KABC) -- Stephen Richey walks slower than he used to, but he's in a much better place than he was a few months ago.

"I was literally losing my mind because the pain was so intense," he said.

The Wildomar resident said he suffered debilitating pain for nearly three years following surgery after a fall at home left him with a crack in his hip joint.

"My hip should have been healed in six to eight weeks. Three to four months later, I am still in a lot of pain," said Richey. "I go to the VA and say, 'Look, my leg is in a lot of pain, it is not getting any better. I need help.'"

Richey is a Vietnam veteran with seven Bronze Star Medals under his belt among other honors for his service. The 75-year-old said none of that seemed to matter when he turned to the VA hospital in Loma Linda for help.

His surgery had been outsourced to another hospital, but his ongoing care was in the hands of the VA.

"It was so severe that, honest to God, I thought I was losing my mind. I really did," said Richey when describing the pain he endured.

Eventually, he got an appointment with the VA's orthopedic department.

"I saw the X-rays of my hip and I saw the screws they put in and I thought, 'Oh my God! There's the problem,'" he recalled. "So, I had these four screws in my hip. Four pieces of sharp metal that was gouging the devil out of my muscles and nerves."

Despite the problem and apparent solution, Richey was denied surgery to remove the pins. That's when he turned to Congressman Ken Calvert's office for help.

Thirty days later, Richey got a call from the head of the VA's orthopedic department.

"He said, 'We are going to give you the surgery,' which just floored me. I thought, 'Wow,'" said Richey.

It's a positive outcome that took nearly three years to resolve and only with help from his local congressman.

"It should not take a member of congress to get involved in helping a veteran," said Calvert.

The surgery authorization came after Jackie Lansing, a caseworker for the congressman, sent repeated emails and made countless calls to the VA inquiring after Richey's care.

"She called and lit a fire under those birds over there, then they were going to authorize the surgery," said Richey.

Eyewitness News reached out to the Loma Linda VA for a comment, but has not received a response. Meanwhile, Calvert is calling on better leadership to guide the state's VA system.

"There are organizations that are there that we fund and take care of [and] should be able to provide the services that these veterans deserve," said Calvert.

Meanwhile, it's been two months since Richey had his much-needed surgery. He's still experiencing some pain as he continues to recover from his nearly three-year ordeal.