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PHOENIX -- The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office says that many veterans have claimed they receive better care in local jails than they get at Phoenix Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The county has approximately 8,300 inmates in jail under Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jurisdiction. MCSO said in a press release that Arpaio separated the veterans to a "specialized pod" last December in one Phoenix jail so they could get extra assistance with health care issues that are common with military service -- such as PTSD.

MCSO said its jails offer behavioral programming for inmates with PTSD, in addition to having anger management, job training and housing assistance programs.

"We have an obligation to do all we can for all those who have worn the uniform in defense of this country," Arpaio said in the press release. "What has allegedly happened at the VA hospital here is unfortunate. We owe it to these veterans to confirm that the medical care they receive while in the Sheriff's Office care and custody meets their needs."

The MCSO release goes on to explain inmates' assessment of their care in county jails:

According to several inmates who recently spoke with detention staff, the level of care in the jails is an improvement over the local VA hospital. Inmates in the veteran pod say the jailhouse medical staff there responds more quickly to inmates' needs, never refuse to treat them for ailments as some have been refused treatment at the VA and that drug prevention programs are far more readily available in jail than at the VA. One inmate complained of lost records at the VA, another spoke of the slowness of care veterans receive there.

Arpaio planned to visit nearly 100 incarcerated veterans in west Phoenix's Towers Jail on Sunday afternoon to thank them for their service as Memorial Day approaches.

The inspector general at the Veterans Affairs Department said 26 VA facilities nationwide are under investigation, including the Phoenix hospital at the center of allegations, about treatment delays and secret waiting lists intended to hide gaps in care.

KTAR Newsroom,

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