Sgt. Lafi Afoa, formerly of Kalihi, talked to reporters Wednesday from a medical hold facility at Fort Lewis, Wash. He said he is frustrated by his medical treatment since returning from Iraq. CLICK FOR LARGE
Isle war vet claims neglect
The Kalihi native says he has been ignored at his Army hospital
Kalihi-born Army Sgt. Lafi Afoa has been awaiting medical treatment at a hospital near Seattle for nine months and wonders in frustration whether anyone cares about the welfare of its soldiers.
At one point, Afoa said, he even contemplated suicide.
"I never got the proper treatment. They didn't seem like they were concerned about my health," said Afoa, 36.
After returning from a 10-month tour in Iraq in November 2004, Afoa said he was diagnosed with sleep apnea, panic attacks and depression. However, the only treatment the logistics supply sergeant received was a sleep study done in March 2005.
"There were no follow-up evaluations," said the 1989 McKinley High School graduate, adding that no one seemed interested in helping get him through the military health system.
Since last June, Afoa has been assigned to Madigan Army Medical Center near Fort Lewis in Washington. The Associated Press said that he is one of 229 soldiers in the hospital's medical hold unit awaiting treatment. Soldiers are assigned to the medical hold units while they receive outpatient care.
Madigan is one of 11 military and veterans hospitals, including Tripler Army Medical Center on Oahu, that will be inspected following disclosures by the Washington Post of inadequate outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, considered the military's premier health care facility.
Tripler has 28 soldiers in medical hold status (active duty) and 50 soldiers in medical holdover status (Reserve and National Guard).
Afoa, who served for four years in the Marine Corps before he transferred to the Army, said he is only required to report to formations in the morning and at the end of the day.
"The rest of the time, I just hang around the company area," Afoa said. "Sometimes I attend classes.
"It's just too overwhelming. It's like they don't care. They don't want to take care of the soldiers."
Afoa was interviewed by Seattle-area reporters who toured Madigan on Wednesday, and he later discussed his situation with the Star-Bulletin from his home, where he lives with his wife and two of his four children.
Afoa told the Star-Bulletin that once his plight was made public, he was seen immediately by Army health officials "who wanted to make sure that I will get proper treatment."