VA continues to struggle to track veterans wait times

Five years ago, a scandal erupted over appointment delays linked to veterans’ deaths. Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs is still struggling with scheduling issues and monitoring wait times.

According to an article published by Military.com, “During a hearing Wednesday before the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Debra Draper, health care director at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), said that, while the VA has “taken action to ensure its facilities provide timely access to medical care,” it must do more. Draper said the VA has made progress since the GAO first warned in 2012 of shortcomings in its appointment scheduling and tracking system, as well as lengthy delays in patient care. But she added that the VA’s data on wait times remain unreliable and appointment delays continue to be long.”

This issue is not only affecting appointments at VA health facilities but also those for the VA Choice program. In addition, the GAO concluded that because the VA’s tracking system does not capture the entire appointment scheduling process, veterans may potentially be waiting up to 70 days for an appointment even though the system only shows a wait time of 30 days.

Teresa Boyd, assistant deputy secretary for clinical operations at the Veterans Health Administration, acknowledged that although the VA still has its challenges, it has “undergone tremendous transformation” since 2014. In addition, Boyd stated that for established patients, the VA’s average wait times for primary care and mental health are less than five days and only seven days for specialty care.

The VA is planning on implementing a new processing system that is designed to support appointment scheduling, authorizations, and referrals in fiscal 2021, in a more efficient manner. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee was quoted as saying that neglectful not to “acknowledge the many ways in which access to care for veterans has improved” since 2014, with the VA completing 1 million more appointments in 2018 than the previous year.

To learn more about this important news affecting veterans, click HERE.