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Photo of veteran waiting for care at the VA goes viral

(Video courtesy of CNN NEWSOURCE, WRAL, Steve McMenamin

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Photos of veterans painfully waiting for care at the emergency room inside the Durham VA have gone viral, but the hospital says they are misleading.

Stephen McMenamin, a veteran himself, and his wife Hanna were waiting in the emergency room and say they were upset by how three veterans were treated.

The photos show one veteran slumped over in his wheelchair, another bent over in his chair, and a third lying on the floor.

The McMenamins say they veteran were ignored and had to wait several hours before they were helped.

“I saw something wrong happening in my opinion and I felt like nobody would possibly believe me if I didn’t take a picture,” said Hanna McMenamin.

The McMenamins say they witnessed the nurse in the waiting room being rude to them and they were in excruciating pain.

“No help was offered to really anyone to kind of help their wait any,” said Steve McMenamin.

The McMenamins shared the photos and what they say they saw on Facebook, and the post spread nationwide with thousands of shares.

Jessie Lee was one of those veterans in the photos.

“It really hurt. Really, really bad. Like one of the worst hurts I ever had in my life,” Lee said.

Lee had a partial leg amputation back in May. The Vietnam veteran suffers from phantom limb pain.

He said he goes to the Durham VA twice a week — but the wait times that day were hours longer than usual.

“I asked them several times if they could do something to help me and they said I’d just have to wait,” Lee said.

CBS North Carolina Investigates immediately took the concerns to DeAnne Seekins, Director of the Durham VA, for answers.

She says the photos don’t tell the whole story.

Seekins says they checked surveillance video and records from the night and that the patients were helped. She says she believes they were given excellent care.

CBS North Carolina asked for copies of that surveillance video but the VA would not provide it.

“I feel very, very good because those veterans received high-quality care,” Seekins said.

She says there was a long wait, but it was a busy night at the ER, with 23 veterans being cared for ahead of the ones pictured and 26 more veterans in the waiting room. She says all the veterans were triaged and treated based on the severity of their illness.

Two of the veterans, according to Seekins, did not even know their picture was being taken and are asking for the post to be taken down.

“One veteran is extremely upset because he said ‘I’m a very private person, you know I was here, I was sick, I didn’t need someone taking my photograph,’”Seekins said.

She says the other veteran even apologized for laying on the floor.

The McMenamins say this is not true, and stand by their post. They say the veteran who was slumped in his wheelchair supports their efforts and was suffering major pain while waiting.

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