PORT RICHEY, Florida -- Between the Army and Navy, Joseph Kramer logged 6 1/2 years serving his country.
"I'm proud. I'm very patriotic," said Kramer. "That's why I did what I did."
But the Iraqi War veteran continues suffering years after first telling doctors about debilitating headaches that just wouldn't go away.
"I was given Ibuprofen. It was kind of like oh, that will take care of it," said Kramer from his home in Port Richey.
He says the symptoms only got worse and now include blurred vision and slurred speech. Kramer's VA psychiatrist finally ordered a CAT scan on March 12. It was then doctors discovered an 18-millimeter cyst on his brain notifying him of the immediate need for follow-up testing.
"And once you have an MRI, I'll have you come in here and we'll talk about a treatment plan for you," he recalls the doctor saying.
Problem is, Kramer says scheduling that follow-up hasn't been easy. He says James A. Haley Hospital in Tampa told him they were too busy, so instead, he was sent by the VA to a private facility.
"March went by, April went by. May started going by. Nothing!"
Turns out, a mix up with the VA's paperwork led to the Gulf War veteran still waiting nearly 2 1/2 months later.
"Am I going to live, am I going to die? Is it operable or what. It makes you want to cry all the time," said Kramer wiping away his tears.
Allegations of veterans dying due to delays in care has Senator Marco Rubio calling for immediate action including terminations within the VA.
"This is systemic, this is a problem with the way the organization is run," said Senator Rubio in an interview from Washington. "In a state like Florida where we have so many veterans that depend on the system, I unfortunately, I am deeply concerned."
VIDEO: Marco Rubio interview on VA problems
A preliminary Veterans Administration report obtained by 10 Investigates and our Gannett partners from USA Today shows five confirmed deaths across Florida flagged as possibly related to a delay in care. Two patients at Bay Pines in Pinellas and another at Tampa's James A Haley Hospital alleged medical consequences due to delays, according to a VA fact sheet listing institutional disclosures.
"I wish I had good news for you but I do not," said Sen. Rubio. "I think that this is unfortunately going to get worse before it gets better in terms of the things were about to find out."
As for Kramer, he doesn't care about terminations or investigations. He fears becoming the next statistic and is only asking for the care he so desperately needs.
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