The Department of Veterans Affairs promised over and over again that it would fix the long wait times after the Phoenix VA scandal. But the problems continue.
A recent report from the VA Office of the Inspector General found VA hospitals throughout the Midwest are inaccurately reporting wait times for hundreds of veterans.
The official list showed 10 percent of veterans who needed new patient appointments had waited more than 30 days. But an audit found the percentage of veterans on the 30-day waiting list was actually 18 percent—and those veterans had waited an average of 53 days.
The incorrect wait times not only showed that care was delayed within the VA system, they also kept veterans from taking advantage of the VA Choice program.
Under current regulations, veterans can go outside of VA hospitals to get care if they wait more than 30 days. This helps ensure the men and women who served our country can get care in a timely manner.
Many of the veterans with inaccurate wait times would have been eligible for the Choice program if their wait times had been tracked correctly.
In addition to incorrectly tracking waiting periods for patients, VA officials regularly canceled veterans’ appointments.
“Medical facility staff discontinued or canceled an estimated 27 percent of consults inappropriately during the first quarter of FY 2017,” the report said. These cancellations “led to veterans experiencing additional delays, or in some cases not receiving the requested care”
The inaccurate wait times were even worse for some patients. An estimated 38 percent of mental health or specialty care appointments were recorded incorrectly, which meant actual wait times were 15 days longer than administrators initially reported.
For patients needing mental health care, long wait times can mean the difference between life and death.
This report is just the latest example of why there’s still much work to be done to clean up the toxic culture at the VA. The Veterans Choice program was a good start—now lawmakers need to expand access so more veterans can get the care they need when they need it.
Tell your lawmakers it’s time to empower veterans to make their own health care decisions.