The VA has set 14 days as the maximum it should take for a first appointment. An interim report released last week found that in Phoenix, Arizona, VA employees concealed the fact that they were not coming close to that goal. And they provided fake tallies for how quickly appointments were being made, tallies that figured in performance reviews and bonuses. The revelations about Phoenix were nothing new. An internal VA memo evaluating practices in 2008 found widespread failure to see veterans in a timely matter, something that was concealed via secret logbooks and other shenanigans that it called "gaming strategies."
Of the latest confirmation of what's been reported for years, Kristina Wong writes:
The audit also says a 14-day goal for seeing first-time patients was unattainable given the growing demand among veterans for healthcare and poor planning, and that 13 percent of VA schedulers reported supervisors telling them to falsify appointment dates to make waiting times appear shorter.Gen. Eric Shinseki, who President Obama appointed as secretary of Veterans Affairs with the charge of fixing the long waits and other assorted VA issues, lost his job because of the problems in Phoenix that also occur elsewhere in the VA system. Some of his severest critics were the austerity-mongers who love to vote to send military personnel overseas but aren't eager to approve an ample enough VA budget to take care of any vast increase in the number of veterans seeking care.
"As of today, VA has contacted 50,000 Veterans across the country to get them off of wait lists and into clinics. Veterans deserve to have full faith in their VA, and they will keep hearing from us until all our Veterans receive the care they’ve earned," said VA Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson Monday.
Here are the worst wait times for seeing a primary care physician for the first time, as reported by the Associated Press: Honolulu, Hawaii: 145 days; VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend HCS, Harlingen, Texas: 85 days; Fayetteville, North Carolina: 83 days; Baltimore HCS, Maryland: 81 days; Portland, Oregon: 80 days; Columbia, South Carolina: 77 days; Central Alabama Veterans HCS, Montgomery, Alabama: 75 days; Providence, Rhode Island: 74 days; Salt Lake City, Utah: 73 days; Richmond, Virginia: 73 days.
Appointment delays for specialists and for mental health are similarly lengthy. The worst of the lot for mental health is in Durham, North Carolina, at 104 days.