Last Thursday, 26 June 2014, Mr. Sloan Gibson, acting Secretary of the VA, was to be at the Gainesville VA Hospital to speak in the Auditorium at 12:00. We had heard, through the grapevine, that there was going to be extra security, etc., so we got up there at 7:30 am. We wanted to be sure that we got a seat.
Between the Security Guards and the Public Affairs Officer, they tried to throw us out no less than five times. They stated it was a closed meeting, for employees only, etc. We stood our ground that we were entitled to be in the meeting as disabled vets. We ended up having to threaten to call the local new media and site the Sunshine Law. They finally left us alone. We watched them setting up things and we actually watched them unplug the sound to the over-flow room.
At 11:30 am or there about, people started filing in. I looked at my husband and stated to him – something is wrong here, they aren’t dressed right. I only saw one person in blue jeans. I kept watching the security officer and he finally made a slashing sign across his throat to indicate all seats were taken. Most people were dressed to the nines – something you don’t see there. It was apparent to me at that point that this was nothing more than a dog and pony show. When it came time to ask questions, there were no questions asked – people that were permitted to speak were using cue cards. It would seem to me if you worked at the VA hospital you would know exactly what you wanted to say without the use of cue cards. I had raised my hand several times because I wanted to bring up the issues we have been having over Special Mode Transport, but my raised hand was ignored. These people that stood up to say something all sang the praises of the Gainesville VA hospital. Not one single solitary complaint. How odd. Then, they weren’t able to hear any questions from the over-flow room. It wasn’t until the following day that we heard that the employees were told they could NOT attend the meeting that all seats were taken and they could listen from the over-flow room. The only problem with that is there was no sound. So, not only could they not hear what the Secretary was saying, they couldn’t ask questions.
At approximately 1:00 pm we moved to another location to attend a meeting with the Secretary and the Veteran Service Officers. They sat me, at least, it a hole in the back of the room where people kept running into my leg with someone entered or exited the room. Amazingly, the only two call in’s were from Congressional staffers. One from Rubio’s office and I don’t remember the second one. Again, it was more of a dog and pony show. I was very disappointed in the meetings.
Where does one lay the blame for this fiasco? With Gainesville for setting things up to look like a literal nirvana, or with the Secretary – because he didn’t want to hear the problems? I suspect it is somewhere in the middle.