Local Vietnam vet with Parkinsons, sleep apnea says long wait for CPAP machine is unacceptable

VA blames staffing shortage for delayed orders

DENVER -- It's not just wait lists that are a problem at the VA. It's also wait times for medical devices.

Lon Sawyer, a Vietnam Veteran suffering from Parkinsons, coronary artery disease and sleep apnea, says he took part in a sleep study last July. He said a month later his doctor told him he needed a CPAP machine.

He's still waiting for a machine and worries that not having it could be putting his life at risk.

"CPAP is for treatment of someone with sleep apnea," he said. "That means you stop breathing."

The respiratory machine will help keep his air flowing, but it hasn't been ordered yet. Sawyer can't believe it.

"As a veteran that has used the VA for primary medical care for  some time, I will share what a number of us vets call the 3-Ds," he said. "The 3-Ds are basically deny, deny, deny. Delay, delay, delay. Die."

Denver7 reached out to the VA to ask why there has been a delay in getting veterans CPAP machines. We were told it was a staffing issue.

In an emailed statement, the VA said, "ECHCS currently provides CPAP-related services to nearly 10,000 veterans, and we are working to order CPAPS for about 5.5 percent, or 552 of these Veterans."

The statement went on to say, "Our Prosthetics Department began recruiting volunteers to assist with the ordering process in October and we are working with other facilities within our network to order the needed supplies. As staffing recruitment remains a challenge, we continue to look at all ways to ensure that Veteran's needs are met."

There was no mention of when the devices are expected to be ordered, nor when the vets will receive them.

Sawyer says that's not good enough, that the VA is breaking trust.

"When 1 percent of us gave what we could give. Some gave all. We were given promises and those promises aren't being kept," he said.

The 68-year-old says a CPAP machine is especially important to someone with Parkinsons.

"Many Parkinsons patients choke to death," he said.

The veteran told Denver7 that he just wants a good night's sleep to help improve the quality of his life.

When asked when he last got a good night sleep, Sawyer replied, "Not chemically induced? A couple of years at least."

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