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Shooting at VA clinic underscores frustrations between some VA workers and veterans

Within moments of an attack at a Veterans Affairs clinic Tuesday that left the gunman and a VA doctor dead, the conversation took a turn to the disagreements and misunderstandings between U.S. military veterans and the VA employees responsible for serving them.

The shooting occurred at the El Paso VA Health Care System about 3:10 p.m. As of Wednesday morning, federal officials offered no motives for the shooting or identities of the men killed.

Regardless, the attack has stirred up feelings of frustration between some VA employees and veterans on the Facebook page for the El Paso clinic. The shooting comes after a series of scandals in recent months that has cast the VA in a negative light, especially in Phoenix, Ariz., where federal investigators found that numerous veterans died after receiving poor care in a VA hospital.

The clinic in El Paso serves veterans in Southwest Texas and Doña Ana County, N.M. The clinic’s Facebook page is filled with emotional responses that appear to come from both employees and veterans since the shooting. They were posted on updates from the clinic to patients, employees and volunteers that noted that the facility would be closed Wednesday:

One commenter said that he worked for several years with the doctor and others in his unit, and found him to be a very good doctor. He blamed a lack of security at the facility, and said the incident “could have easily been prevented.”

“DO NOT let the news fool you in turning your attention towards veterans PTSD claims,” said the commenter, Russell Terrell. “The attention should be directly on security and these ‘Gun Free Zones’ where the government is not allowing us federal workers to be armed where we are able to defend ourselves if and when situations like this arise. Gun free zones never work and unfortunately the El Paso VA Health Care System is finding this out in a most unfortunate manner.”

In another post, a man who said he was a veteran said it is hard to respect VA because of recent scandals. The man, identifying himself as John Conwell, said he had a bad experience where a “worthless” doctor was looking for new jobs while saying he was trying to help.

Another woman responded that more than 50 percent of those working for VA are veterans, and continuing to serve by helping veterans.

“We and our families struggle with the issues from war and the illnesses we will always have because of serving the same as y’all do,” said the woman, Jessica Smith. “Many of us use the facility and wait our turns for appointments also. Today was frightening and tragic in many ways and you getting on here to rant and complain just shows your lack of respect for your fellow man.”

Checkpoint reached out to the individuals involved to see whether they wanted to clarify or elaborate on their remarks on the public Facebook page.

As noted by the Post Nation blog, the El Paso health-care system has been under investigation for long patient wait times. A recent inspector general review said it had the sixth-worse wait times in the VA network, which has at least 128 facilities.