Veteran Turned Away At Two VA Clinics: Military Connection

Military Connection: Atlanta-VAMC

By Debbie Gregory.

VA medical facilities and health clinics have been under scrutiny in recent years, specifically for the lack of administrative efficiency and the failure to provide patients with appointments in a timely manner. While some facilities have addressed these concerns on the local level, but nationally there are still inconsistencies in making forward progress.

Former Army Spc. Chris Dorsey attempted to make a mental health appointment at his local VA clinic in Oakwood, GA. He was told that facility was not taking any new patients. Dorsey then attempted to seek an appointment at another facility nearby, only to hear the same response, but this time he switched on his phone’s video recorder to capture the facility’s response. In frustration, Dorsey posted the video online.

It’s understandable that the media quickly picked up the story. VA Secretary Bob McDonald made a public statement indicating that Dorsey was not given accurate information. While that may be true, the concern remains in how many other facilities have been giving out incomplete or incorrect information.

In the past year, $10 billion has been allocated to improve veterans’ access to health care. With these funds, new procedures are being implemented, including the provision that facilities at full patient capacity are to help the patient find an available facility, or outsource the patient to a private physician until a spot is available within the VA system. Dorsey’s experience is evidence that this protocol has not been embraced by all facilities as of yet.

VA spokeswoman Walinda West explained, “We can refer the patient to other clinics, or we have the option of the Choice Program for eligible veterans. If it is an emergency, we will refer the patient to the nearest emergency room.”

Dorsey was eventually given an appointment at his local facility because of the publicity given his situation. Despite his appreciation for the appointment, he suspects that it was at the expense of another patient who may have been bumped for his benefit. If that is true, then there is still a lot of work to be done.

Lawmakers continue to pressure the VA to eliminate the health eligibility pending list and denial of health care to veterans.

In light of Dorsey’s experience and media attention, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman stated, “No veteran should ever fall through the cracks when attempting to receive the care they have earned.”

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Veteran Turned Away At Two VA Clinics: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory