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As part of its System Worth Saving Task Force, the American Legion annually tours fifteen hospitals and gathers information to produce an annual report assessing the facilities.  According to Jacob Gadd, the Legion Deputy Director for Health Care, sites are typically randomly chosen; however, this year, the Pittsburgh Veterans Affairs (VA) Health System was intentionally added to the American Legion’s visit list due to the recent outbreaks.

Vietnam veteran Jeff Pope, 73 of Plum reacts as fellow veterans comment on the Legionnaires’ outbreak in the Pittsburgh VA system during a town hall meeting at the American Legion post in Squirrel Hill Monday.

Before visiting the Pittsburgh VA on Nov. 5, the American Legion held a town hall meeting with local vets to hear out concerns.

“We hold those to really hear first-hand from veterans how their care is at the hospital and what improvements, or what things are working well and really try to get an idea from the veterans and the users of the system how the VA is doing there for them,” said Gadd.

During the town hall meeting that took place at the American Legion Squirrel Post 577, it was clear that confidence in the VA Health System was shaken.  Many were both fearful and angry with the VA due to the way the outbreaks were handled.

James M. Page III, an army veteran who served in the Vietnam War, said “I didn’t find out about it until after the fact.  It’s a lack of trust in the way the system is working.  You want to trust the VA, but higher-ups wouldn’t let the truth be known.”

American Legion officials spent time yesterday and today reviewing programs at the VA hospital including Legionnaires’ disease prevention methods.  David P. Cord, the Deputy Director of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System said that the VA is ready to respond to any of the investigation’s findings.

There is currently an open investigation regarding the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at the Pittsburgh VA Health System in which at least five fatalities and 16 confirmed illnesses occurred.


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