By Debbie Gregory.
It appears that due to soaring demands on the VA system, the number of veterans on wait lists for treatment is up by 50 percent from this time last year.
With that said, the VA healthcare system has handled 2.7 million more appointments than in any previous year, and has increased its capacity by more than 7 million patient visits per year.
While the number of Veterans using VA for care has grown about 2% per year, many locations where space, staffing, productivity, and community care enhancements have been emphasized are growing at multiples of that rate, many of them in double digits.
So what gives? The combination of elderly veterans, Vietnam veterans, and younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan all seeking the care they have earned, the VA has been unable to fulfill that obligation. To make matters worse, VA leaders also warned that they are facing a $2.6 billion budget shortfall, which may result in a hiring freeze or furloughs.
Stretching an already bursting budget, the VA gave more than 2.9 million authorizations for veterans to receive care in the private sector between June 1, 2014, and June 1, 2015, a 44 percent increase compared to the same period in previous years.
The health-care system ranks among the most troubled of all government programs. “We are simply asking Congress, once again, for the budget flexibility to use our existing funds to provide Veterans with the care in the community they have already earned,” said VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson.
VA facilities were investigated in 2014 after House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican, said as many as 40 veterans died while awaiting care at a Phoenix VA hospital. His committee reported on secret waiting lists and falsified data intended to hide long wait times.
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Veterans Still On Wait Lists: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory