Over the course of CNBC's four month investigation for "Death & Dishonor: Crisis at The VA," we spoke with congressional leaders, veterans and their families and a number of VA employees who were so outraged by the poor conditions at the hospitals where they work that they felt compelled to come forward.
But it wasn't an easy decision for them, primarily because the VA warned employees not to speak with the media. One orthopedic surgeon who used to work at the Jackson, Miss., VA, agreed to speak with us on condition of anonymity. He asked that we shoot his interview in shadow but allowed us to use his real voice. He painted a bleak picture of conditions of surgical equipment at the hospital.
"Occasionally we'd find pieces of bone" on equipment, he told CNBC. "What it really shows is that no one is really taking the time or care to clean the instruments."
(Read more: Chair of House panel says VA 'overwhelmed')
His story was backed up by Dr. Phyllis Hollenbeck, who still works at the hospital. She testified on Sept. 9 about problems at the Jackson center. "Essentially everything that happens in primary care at the Jackson VA can be included under the umbrella of being unethical, illegal, heartbreaking, and life threatening for the veterans, and everything in the care of the veterans starts in primary care."
And many of Hollenbeck's claims are substantiated by an independent watchdog group called Office of Special Counsel. That group raised concerns about understaffing, and the prescribing of narcotics, among other things.
But the VA undersecretary of health, Dr. Robert Petzel, who recently announced his retirement, downplayed the problems in Jackson. He said this in a speech earlier this year, "there have been some public kerfuffles in the paper that don't in my mind reflect the Jackson VA facility."