Isakson: ‘Incomprehensible’ that Georgia VA clinics turned away vet

Georgia Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson said he is looking into the case of Iraq war veteran Chris Dorsey, who was turned away from two U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs clinics in northern Georgia when he sought help for post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It is incomprehensible to me that any VA clinic would turn away a veteran — especially one seeking mental health care — without offering alternative options,” Isakson said in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Wednesday. “I … will raise this with the Secretary of the VA.”

Isakson is chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee.

Dorsey, 33, attracted national attention after he recorded his second rejection Tuesday at the VA Oakwood Community Based Outpatient Clinic on his smartphone camera and posted the video on Facebook and YouTube. The story was reported in the Military Times.

In the video, Dorsey can be heard asking a front desk clerk for a transfer from the Athens VA system and an appointment. The clerk tells Dorsey the clinic is not accepting new patients. No further assistance is offered.

Dorsey is heard leaving the clinic in frustration, slamming the door on his way out and commenting about the number of veterans suicides estimated by VA to occur each day.

“It’s devastating for me to go in to two places and say I’m here to get help and they are essentially saying ‘I’m not going to help you,’” Dorsey, a former Army specialist who served as a cavalry scout from 2001 to 2005 and was deployed to Iraq for most of 2003, told the Military Times.

He said he made the video to show what veterans encounter when they try to get help at VA. Dorsey, who works as a woodcutter in Winder, said he had been previously turned away at the VA clinic in Lawrenceville, prompting him to bring his camera to the Oakwood facility.

“I told my family about this stuff happening,” Dorsey told the Military Times. “They’ve said, ‘You are crazy, no one would do that.’ Well, the video explains it.”

In an emailed statement sent to the AJC, the VA said, “The message Mr. Dorsey was given, as seen on the video, is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

The VA last year introduced a program — VA Choice — that allows Dorsey to see a civilian therapist, but he only heard of it recently, and no employees at the Lawrenceville and Oakwood clinics mentioned it.

“VA staff should have established a full understanding of Mr. Dorsey’s medical situation and determined if an appointment was available for him at another location or if he was eligible for the Choice Program and could be seen outside of VA,” the VA said in the statement.

“Leadership at the Atlanta VA Medical Center are reaching out to Mr. Dorsey now to determine his need for services and to offer the appropriate care. Facility officials are implementing a plan to re-train front line staff in the appropriate way to inform Veterans about the options they have available to them.”

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