Frustrated by what he sees as the inaction and deception of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, an Indiana Vietnam veteran has begun a personal campaign to bring his complaints to light, paying for critical billboards across the country near VA facilities.
The billboards are explicit. They say "VA is LYING. Veterans are DYING."
The campaign came to Minneapolis this month, with three such billboards along roads near the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center. Signs are facing both east and west on Cedar Avenue and on Hwy. 62, near the 34th Avenue exit.
Operating out of his home in New Harmony, Ind., Ron Nesler said that recent VA scandals about long wait times and poor care are nothing new but that the time has come to speak up. "We're trying to simply shame change in the VA," he said. "We want to shame the VA administrators and we want to shame the Congress. We're tired of begging for change. We're trying insisting."
The campaign is relatively new and operates on a shoestring. The billboards are paid for through a GoFundMe campaign found on his "VA is lying" group on Facebook, and Nesler said they stay up as long as they can be paid for.
In Minnesota, the VA is facing questions about how it is handling claims for traumatic brain injury; concerns about changing appointments, and issues related to veterans being denied medications for chronic pain, said Ben Krause, a veteran and local attorney who blogs at DisabledVeterans.org.
"It's forced the VA to be accountable within their own community," Krause said. " … The billboards are seen by everybody commuting to VA. VA can't duck that. "
In response, Patrick Kelly, director of the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, suggested in a memo that employees assure anyone asking that the Minneapolis VA is committed to providing quality health care.