A new report from the Washington Examiner claims that the Department of Veterans Affairs is only using half of its appointment capacity to make appointments for veterans, while thousands still wait more than a month to be seen by a doctor. While the VA has boasted that wait times have decreased over the years, nearly 500,000 waited for physician-requested follow-ups for more than 30 days from just July to September of this year.
The report cites documentation from whistleblowers showing that only “51.44 percent of the appointments available across its healthcare system” from July to September this year. Veterans are left to wait weeks, even months, for new or follow-up appointments while the VA only fills half of the appointments it has available. The most staggering example in this report is that of Phoenix, Arizona.
In 2014, reports of secret wait lists and manipulated data at the Phoenix VA began an avalanche of reports on VA scandals nationwide. Three years after that initial revelation, the Phoenix VA has “3,338 veterans waiting more than 30 days for an appointment, while only 55.4 percent of appointments are utilized.”
Ineffective scheduling practices are a systemic issue at the VA, as well as providing adequate and timely care in general. In a post-Phoenix VA scandal world, it’s incredible that scheduling is still a significant problem. It’s long past time for the VA to have learned from its mistakes and implemented actual change.
Part of effective change would be allowing veterans to access care in the community when and where they need it. The current system keeps veterans from accessing care when they need it, or limits them to access based on trivial criteria. Truly caring for veterans and their needs would be embracing a system that allows for treatment inside or outside the VA, depending on the needs of the veteran. Otherwise, we’re left with a backed-up VA system with no end to the extensive wait times in sight.
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