Mitchell, who still lives in Sherman, Texas, knows she'll never have an answer. But she sensed confusion at the VA as her husband was treated for a rare sarcoma, a cancer that develops from soft tissues like fat, muscle and deep skin tissues.

For example, the VA sent him to an outside specialist for a surgery that turned out to be the wrong procedure for him, so he was sent back to the VA, losing precious time. She remembers leaving desperate phone messages at the VA that were never returned, although the VA says that all calls were answered in a timely manner.

Mitchell says the confusion continued even after her husband's death. Just a few months ago, the VA called, asking to make an appointment for the veteran.

She politely told them he was dead.

"The lady said, 'I guess I really need to update my computer,' " Mitchell remembered. "I said 'yes, you really do.' "