By Lorra B.
The Veterans Affairs scandal fueled not only an outcry from veterans and the public but it spurred billions in new funding as well. VA wait times, however, have increased.
It has been a little over a year since Americans were stricken with horror upon learning of sick veterans getting sicker or even dying due to not getting the care they desperately needed and in a timely manor, many waiting long months to see a doctor.
According to the latest VA statistics, long wait times have not at all improved in all parts of the country. In fact, they have increased and they have done so even after Congress granted the VA an additional 16.3 billion last year specifically to cut veteran wait times.
The 16.3 billion was to be used to open new clinics, hire new doctors, and to orchestrate a program that would direct potential long-wait patients to private sector care.
So what happened? Why, a year later, are our veterans still not being taken care of in a reasonable amount of time? According to Huff Politics, “Since the summer, the number of vets waiting more than 30 or 60 days for non-emergency care has largely stayed flat. The number of medical appointments that take longer than 90 days to complete has nearly doubled.”
There are more than 1000 nationwide VA facilities. 47 of these clinics and hospitals are responsible for “more than one in five of the appointments that took longer than 60 days to complete.”
On April 2, the VA stated, “Some Veterans are still waiting longer than they desire for their appointments, and we are working hard to try to get then the care they have earned where and when they need it.”
Tell that to 47 year-old Noel. She waited an agonizing 10 months to get a follow-up appointment after she received the news that she had an abnormal cervical cancer screening. The emotional distress placed upon Noel was inexcusable at best.
So infuriated was Noel by her wait time that she “warned the caller [VA receptionist] she had post-traumatic stress disorder – and they better have security meet her in the lobby,” stated AP.
Clearly Noel is only one story among hundreds. But delays such as Noel’s are not typical in all areas of the country. In the Midwest, Northeast and states along the Pacific Coast, VA facilities had little delay troubles with “fewer than 2 appointments per month that involved a wait more than 60 days.”
On the other hand, Jacksonville, Florida got a FAIL in veteran wait times. Within a 7 month period, 1,117 veterans had to wait more than two months for appointments. So, while some parts of the country are excelling, others are failing. That leaves us wondering what the VA plans on doing to even out the playing fields for our veterans in every state.
“VA Officials cite numerous efforts to ramp up capacity by building new health centers and hiring more staff,” according to Huff Politics. “Between April and December, the system added 8,000 employees. In Fayetteville, the VA is finishing a new 250,000-square-foot health center to help alleviate the delays that frustrated Rosie Noel.” The VA also said they have stepped up performance in appointment handling by 4.5 percent.
There are other issues plaguing the VA, however, other than wait times. Due to a budget shortfall of about $3 Billion they are considering hiring freezes, according to Rare (and other alternatives to help bridge the gap). But, didn’t you just say you were building new Health Care Centers and hiring more staff? So which is it? The Veterans must be confused. I know I am.
The VA patient load increased by over 7 million visits, a number that VA officials say caught them off guard by being double what they had expected. Even if they were caught off guard funding has seemingly never been an issue.
Clearly the chart shows funding as not being the problem. Then, in 2014, an additional $16.3 billion is added to the mix, which includes and emergency fund of $10 billion.
Yet the VA is considering hiring freezes and ‘other alternatives to bridge the gap,’ some of which will do more harm than good. When the patient load increases dramatically is it really a good idea to freeze hiring?
Obviously there are intense issues and very complex problems going on within the VA that the average Joe Public doesn’t know about. Throwing money at the problems sure doesn’t seem to be fixing them. Perhaps a new tactic is in order because the one now in place is failing miserably as veteran wait times have increased and funding is running like sand through VA fingers.
By Lorra B.