7 ON YOUR SIDE

Veteran's Medical Center removes benches

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Johnny and George Saxton are sitting in the hot sun on a parking lot retaining wall outside of the Washington, D.C. Veteran's Medical Center.

Veterans stand while wating for rides. (Photo: ABC7)

Their discomfort and difficulties have come after hospital administrators removed several benches in front of the building where these brothers and veterans used to sit.

Because of the action, these and many other ailing vets, who put their lives on the line in combat, can't easily sit and wait for their ride home at the facility. Most stand under the front awning protected from the elements where the benches used to be.

“You got bad legs, you got people up here who are really sick, I got cancer myself, I got cancer in my spine,” Johnny Saxton says. “I gotta sit down sometime.”

For veteran Bruce Yeager, who uses a walker to get around, the wait for his car is now struggle without a place to sit.

“I don't know why they removed them, I thought they should have had more, there weren't enough. Everybody was sitting in them,” he says.

Some wait in the foyer sitting on the radiator or search for a seat somewhere in the lobby, far from the pickup point. In fact, the nearest bench is in the island across three lanes of pickup and drop off traffic. Two more are all the way around the corner, past the emergency room entrance and a construction zone. Neither offer any shade.

Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs also provided this statement: “VA should put the comfort and safety of veterans visiting the DC VA first. If a renovation is being considered to alleviate traffic in that area, then the current seating should remain as long as possible to accommodate veterans using the facility and an alternate entry site, with seating, needs to be planned for in the meantime.”

In a statement, a hospital official said that "the facility is developing a new Front Drive Plan to alleviate congestion and move veterans and visitors through the area safely. The seating will be replaced once the new design plan is approved and completed."

The spokeswoman said that could happen by November.

However, the spokeswoman didn't provide a direct answer the obvious question of why the benches were removed before a new plan was implemented.

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