By Debbie Gregory.
It appears as though the Veterans Affairs (VA) wait-times scandal has not curbed the flow of disabled veterans who want care through the department.
In fact, the percentage of disabled post-9/11 vets with health insurance through the Veterans Affairs Department has increased 11 percent over the last few years.
According to a survey done by the Wounded Warrior Project, 71 percent of injured Iraq and Afghanistan veterans said they had VA health care coverage in 2016, compared to 66 percent in 2015, and 59 percent in 2014.
The 2014 Veterans’ Access, Choice, and Accountability Act expanded health insurance options for many vets, allowing them to use private health care providers in cases where VA could not meet their needs.
The survey revealed the most common injuries and health problems respondents reported: post-traumatic stress disorder (77 percent); sleep issues (76 percent); back, neck or shoulder problems (72 percent); and depression (70 percent).
But all of the news wasn’t favorable: disabled vets who participated in the survey reported difficulties accessing physical and mental health care through the VA and outside providers. Thirty-five percent of respondents reported mental health care access problems, with the most common reason cited being “personal schedules that conflicted with the hours of operation of VA health care.” The fourth most commonly-cited reason was “difficulty in scheduling appointments” (32 percent). For those seeking physical health care, 40 percent of those with VA and other types of health care said they’d experienced problems scheduling appointments, the top reason in that category, while 45 percent of those respondents with VA as their primary health care provider cited difficulties with scheduling appointments.
Thirty-seven percent of those using VA as their primary health provider cited a lack of availability in VA specialty clinics (compared to 31 percent of all respondents), while 37 percent of respondents using VA as their primary health care said the department’s requirements made it difficult to get referrals for necessary specialty treatment for physical problems, compared to 31 percent for all respondents with those issues.