Baylor Scott & White told KAGS News that once they knew about Jason Scaturro’s case, they took action. It took him nearly three months to get an appointment.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — For more than 30 years, the Department of Veterans Affairs said he provided free health care for any illness or injury he deemed related to a veteran’s military service.
When COVID-19 hit, Veterans Affairs was tasked with tackling even more issues than they could have even anticipated.
President Biden visited a VA clinic in Fort Worth in March 2022 and said veterans and their medical care should be taken seriously.
“Every soldier or veteran deserves to be treated with dignity. They shouldn’t have to ask anything,” President Biden said. “They shouldn’t have to ask, ‘Can you help me?’ it should be, ‘I have a problem’ and we say, ‘How can we help.'”
In December, College Station veteran Jason Scaturro contacted his local Department of Veterans Affairs and asked for help, only to receive mixed messages from his hospital and the VA outpatient clinic in town.
As a veteran, Scaturro guaranteed free access to health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs after the agency was established in 1989. But in his experience, Scaturro said the promise of protection had been torn for years.
“I went to the VA in December,” Scaturro said. “They gave me a reference.”
Scaturro joined the US Army Military Police Corps in 1995 and served 13 years in Washington and Germany until 2008 when he was discharged due to injury. Fast forward another 13 years and Scaturro said he started feeling pain in his foot.
He contacted the VA and asked them for a referral so he could be treated.
“They faxed it, have confirmation they got it,” Scaturro said. “They said, ‘give it 24 hours and call them back’ and so I did. I gave them 48 hours instead of 24. I called Baylor Scott & White, ‘we don’t we don’t.'”
Scaturro said he had been waiting for a response for weeks and when he finally got a response, he said he had to start the process over again after an alleged error was found in the documents.
“I was told this time that they rejected the recommendation because of the doctor’s name that was on it,” Scaturro said.
The doctor listed was a podiatrist who currently works for Baylor Scott & White in Temple.
“I could just say, ‘Okay, I’m just not going to use the VA and I’m just going to get my own medical insurance and race that way,'” Scaturro said. “But I’ve earned it.”
Scaturro said he was in contact with Tom Walker, the administrative officer at the local VA clinic in College Station. KAGS News contacted Walker and after a brief phone conversation, Walker directed us to their Temple office, which provided the following statement:
“We apologize that Mr. Scaturro had difficulty with his referral to community care. In an effort to protect patient privacy, we cannot comment on a specific veteran’s case, but we have contacted directly with him and Baylor Scott and White to ensure his questions and concerns are addressed. We will continue to work closely with our community partners to leverage all possible means to provide and coordinate care, including virtual care at the within the VA system. In FY21 alone, VA completed more than 1.5 million community care referrals, 68,236 through Central Texas VA Health Care System. VA established a network of local providers for which veterans are referred for care VA works within the network to share relevant referrals, medical notes, images, diagnostic labs and reports so that the veteran is named Veterans may be eligible for community care through a provider in their local community depending on their health care needs or circumstances and if they meet to specific eligibility criteria. Veterans who have been referred by their VA provider for community care and have questions can contact their Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) through Myhealthevet or our Community Care Office at (254) 743-1683 .
Scaturro again called the hospital for his case, but encountered more obstacles. “When they transfer you to referrals, they are very defensive and insist that it’s your fault if it doesn’t go as it should,” he said.
‘You’re doing it wrong,’ that’s all she kept saying,” he added. “That kinda got on my nerves. Basically, she was implying that I hadn’t gone to see a doctor. I just tried to get an appointment at a specialist clinic with no referral at all.”
It was almost too much for Scaturro and he struggled to hold on, despite his first instinct not to reach out. “It makes me emotional,” he said. “It’s not the VA, it’s not anger. I have tremendous pride.”
In February 2022, Scaturro reached out to KAGS News and told us about the constant struggle to see a doctor about his pain. Once we started calling and asking questions, Scaturro said he started getting phone calls – from none other than Baylor Scott & White.
“I had five or six phone calls from Baylor Scott and White that day,” Scaturro said.
KAGS News has asked to speak with someone at Baylor Scott and White College Station regarding Scaturro’s case. They agreed to do so and asked Scaturro to sign a release form allowing them to discuss the matter with us. We wanted to know why it took three months for Scaturro to get the medical treatment he needed.
Scaturro signed the forms and KAGS News arranged an interview with Baylor Scott & White. Kendall Parker, director of guest services at the hospital, said the hospital regularly sees veterans seeking care.
“It’s always nice to see a veteran walk into our facility where we previously knew they had to go to Temple or a VA hospital,” Parker said. But now they have had the opportunity to come and see us.
Parker said her department routinely helps guests navigate the hospital.
“Having our customer services there to greet them, to answer any questions they have, or even if it’s just for them to go where they need to go,” she said.
However, when asked specific questions about Jason’s case, we were told by hospital communications staff that Parker would not be able to comment. KAGS asked what the hospital’s medical process was like when working with the VA, but Parker was asked not to comment.
“It’s probably something that’s not in Kendall’s wheelhouse,” said Megan Hoffman, who is the hospital’s brand manager for the marketing and public relations team. She watched the interview unfold.
When Parker was asked to comment on the removal process, again she was barred from commenting.
“It’s probably still something that, I mean, Kendall hasn’t been involved with her case at all,” Hoffman said.
Baylor Scott & White told KAGS News in March that they were unable to provide anyone with a follow-up interview to answer questions about Scaturro’s case. KAGS News followed up in April, asking Baylor Scott & White to provide an interview about Scaturro’s case, as previously reported. Instead, Hoffman provided a statement:
“From the moment we were made aware of this issue, our team worked to help, and we are glad it has been resolved. We are always working to make care more convenient, and Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – College Station is pleased to offer a whole team of people dedicated to helping patients through their care journey.Those who need help navigating care can call 979.207.0127 to speak to our customer services team.
KAGS News asked what the hospital was doing to make sure other veterans didn’t have the same issues. We asked what the specific issue was that delayed Scaturro’s medical appointment for more than three months.
Baylor Scott & White declined to answer questions and refers to the statement.
Scaturro said he wanted to follow through on his case and didn’t want other veterans to give up seeking treatment. He shared his story in the hope that others who had given up on seeking treatment will come back and try again.
“They deserve better,” Scaturro said. “If my fight helps them get it, then I will fight it.”