Mission Changes Policies After VA Scandal

By: Meg Rose - Email
By: Meg Rose - Email

Earlier this week NewsChannel 7 told you about a local man who claims the VA Healthcare System was refusing to treat him for cancer. Now, it appears there may be other reasons, besides the VA scandal, for David Smith's lack of treatment.

The strange case of Smith began Monday when the Panama City Rescue Mission sent out an appeal for help. The e-mail said Smith was an 84 year old homeless veteran who showed-up at the mission a few months ago, suffering with prostate cancer.

He supposedly received a letter in March from the VA saying he'd have an appointment in two weeks, but never heard anything more.

Smith said, "They do not care for their veterans and that hurts me. I got to the point I didn't know what to do and I'm still working on it."

After several local media outlets reported Smith's story Tuesday, people began stepping forward. Dr. Jefferson Trupp, a Bay Medical Sacred Heart Oncologist, saw the reports and offered his help. However, as news organizations were working on this latest development, other facts began to surface.

Apparently Smith is a registered sex offender, convicted on three counts of lewd and lascivious molestation on minors in the late 80's and early 90's. He served eight years in prison, until his release in 2001.

Smith claims he was released because the state dropped the charges. However, Rescue Mission officials say that's not the case.

Thursday evening Mission officials released a statement saying, in part, that Smith provided a document showing that he was committed to a mental institution after his release from prison. He wasn't released from the mental facility until earlier this year. Records also show Smith is not 84 years old as he claimed, but 77.

We questioned his claims that he served in the Korean War, at age 16, and in Vietnam. Veteran's officials confirm he, at least, served in Korea.

Naval Support Activity-Panama City, which houses the local VA clinic, tells NewsChannel 7, sex offenders are not allowed on base. It's unclear if the VA will accommodate veterans with sex convictions.

Rescue Mission officials say they're not 100 percent sure which category Smith falls under, but it seems he still has some serious mental deficiencies.

As for Dr. Trupp, he says he'll still help Smith receive treatment. He also says he plans to work through the VA to pay for that treatment. Dr. Trupp said, "I'll be calling a urologist at the VA to discuss where we go from here."

Mission officials also say this incident is forcing them to change their policies, and will immediately begin checking the sex offender status for all of the Mission's clients.


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