VA attempting to accelerate veteran care after complaints of long wait times

Posted at 7:49 PM, May 28, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-28 19:49:17-04

The VA scandal over secret lists that involves hiding long appointment wait times for veterans are no longer just allegations.

The Inspector General released a new report Wednesday that says all of it is true!

Investigators found 1,700 veterans were waiting to see a doctor at the Phoenix VA hospital but were never put on the official electronic wait list.

VA hospital officials said veterans were only waiting 24 days for an appointment, but in reality, they waited as long as 115 days.

The revelations could lead to big changes in how the VA delivers care, even here in Hampton Roads.

The VA announced this week a new push called the "Accelerating Access to Care” initiative.

Hospital directors are considering implementing overtime for hospital employees, so they can keep clinics open nights and even weekends, to see as many patients as possible.

Veterans could even be sent out to private hospitals to get the timely care they need.

The initiative will last for at least 90 days--a direct response to complaints of long appointment wait times.

“It’s an excellent plan, because lots of people need help,” said Steven Brown Junior, a local vet who gets care at the Hampton VA.

Looking closely at the new policy, though, it only pertains to veterans just starting out with their VA care, or for those new to a specific clinic inside the hospital.

It does not explain what will happen to vets already in the system, still waiting.

“The Hampton VA system is overcrowded,” said Fred Foskey, who has tried to get a physical therapy appointment after a recent neck surgery. “90 days is nowhere near enough time to see veterans that are waiting.”

46 VA hospitals around the country are now being investigated, to see if inappropriate scheduling tactics were being used to hide long appointment wait times.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is also launching a nationwide review of every one of their 152 hospitals to make sure veterans are not being hidden on secret wait lists and are getting the proper care they deserve.

NewsChannel 3 contacted the Hampton VA, who sent us this statement.

“In response to growing workload, the Hampton VAMC has increased staffing to meet the needs of our local Veterans. During FY 14, Hampton VAMC substantially increased staffing in both Primary Care and Mental Health, as well as increases in many other clinical support areas. The Fee Basis program (Non-VA Care Coordination) will continue to be aggressively used as a means of supplementing VA “in-house” capacity. We will continue to strive to provide accessible and high-quality health care to the Veterans of the Tidewater area. ”