Military Connection: VA Wait Times Remain: By Debbie Gregory

VA wait timesVeterans will be happy to know that the Department of Veterans Affairs has made significant progress in improving the backlog of patients waiting for care at VA facilities. The VA has cut the number of Veterans who face a wait time of more than four months for an appointment from 120,000 in May, 2014 to 23,000 in October, 2014.

That number is expected to drop even lower with the issuance of VA Choice Cards, a short-term solution that will allow Veterans living more than 40 miles from a VA facility to seek treatment from non-VA facilities. Choice Cards will also temporarily allow Veterans waiting longer than 30 days for treatment at a VA facility to seek private care.

From June through September, 2014, the VA completed 19 million medical appointments in their facilities. This is an increase of 1.2 million compared to  the same time last year.

The VA’s goal is to provide timely, quality healthcare for Veterans and their dependents. That is why the VA continues to implement reforms aimed at significantly improving access to care.

One of the major efforts that the VA is undertaking as part of their long-term reform is to recruit more health care providers. To entice quality doctors, nurses, counselors and staff, VA Secretary Robert McDonald has proposed pay hikes for medical professionals in the VA. This, and other long-term reform plans have yet to have a major impact on wait times. But data shows that dozens of VA facilities still have a quarter or more of all their patients waiting 30 days or more for an appointment.

Some facilities, including ones in Atlanta, Baltimore, Jacksonville and Temple (Texas) are among the 64 that have average wait times of over 60 days for new patients. In total, more than 600,000 Veterans continue to wait 30 days or more for appointments at VA hospitals and clinics.

Many politicians and media sites may try to convince the American public that the VA is either fixed by the 16.3 billion from the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014. But the truth of the matter is that reforming the VA is going to be long and evolving process.

There will be setbacks, and possibly a few failures, but also many improvements for Veterans along the way. The best thing that we, as voting citizens can do, is pressure our lawmakers to make the appropriate decisions when it comes to caring for our Veterans and vote to approve Veteran-friendly measures when they reach the ballot.

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Military Connection: VA Wait Times Remain: By Debbie Gregory