Ozarks widow says delays in cancer treatment killed veteran husband

Published: Jul. 26, 2016 at 5:37 PM CDT
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An Ozarks woman believes delays in cancer treatment killed her veteran husband. From diagnosis to treatment took about five months.

A year ago, Larry Powell was still working and supporting his family, including his two grandchildren. Now, everything has changed.

The VA diagnosed Larry Powell with lung cancer last August. We met him and his wife Brenda in December. Larry said in December, "Labs, exams, tests, retests because the original tests are not accurate; they're too old to be reliable. Go back and take them again, and that's the cycle we're going through."

"We had made like I think, close to 9 trips to Fayetteville," says Brenda Powell, Larry's wife. That was just tests. Treatment started in January after the VA finally approved Larry to get radiation at Mercy in Springfield.

Brenda says, "I continually pushed, take it out, take it out. Well, they were only concerned about what the VA was willing to pay for, because that's what they had recommended at the time," Brenda says.

Mercy tells us their doctors agreed with the VA that Larry's poor lung function ruled out surgery. "It wasn't supposed to be; it started out to be something that was totally operable a year ago August," Brenda says.

Larry got sicker, and by May, they learned the cancer had spread in his lungs and to his kidney. "So at that point, I knew the outcome was probably not going to be with us," Brenda says.

Larry died June 17th at home on hospice.

The VA in Fayetteville would only say they "want to ensure quality care is provided in a timely manner."

Mercy says their involvement was limited to a diagnostic test and giving Larry Powell radiation as part of the VA's care plan.

Brenda is now a grieving widow and the sole guardian of their grandchildren, Brandon and Layla. "It was the most emotional, heartbreaking thing for those kids to go through. That's what the delays cause," Brenda says.

The VA says says when veterans or their families believe care is being delayed, they should reach out to primary care clinics or contact VA patient advocates.

VA full statement:

"We take the care of all Veterans very seriously, and want to ensure quality care is provided in a timely manner. To protect patient privacy, we cannot divulge specific medical information. If there is any situation where a Veteran or family member believes care is being delayed, we urge them to reach out to their Primary Care clinics or to contact our Patient Advocates by calling 479-444-5047."

Mercy full statement:

A cancer diagnosis is devastating for an entire family, and treatment plans can be complicated. Mr. Powell was a VA patient, and as such, the VA directed his treatment. Mercy's involvement was limited to performing a diagnostic test and administering radiation therapy as part of the VA's plan. We were sorry to learn of Mr. Powell's passing and his wife's concerns regarding his treatment. Although Mercy's involvement was through the direction of the VA, we have reached out to her to learn more and hope to sit down with her soon to answer any questions she still has.