After a self-conducted U.S. Veterans Affairs audit revealed unequivocal evidence of departmental ineptitude, Congress is moving quickly to address the issue of veterans’ long wait times at VA clinics and hospitals across the country.
On June 10, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation designed to make it easier for new patients dealing with long appointment delays at VA clinics to get the care they need. The bill would allow patients to receive treatment from local doctors instead, which will be paid for by the VA.
The audit, which prompted the new legislation, showed that more than 57,000 new VA patients have endured wait times of at least three months before getting initial appointments. Another 64,000 newly enrolled veterans who sought care never received appointments. The audit showed evidence of poor communication and scheduling errors, in addition to false numbers on patients’ medical records allegedly designed to mask long delays.
The House bill, along with a similar version in the Senate, would spend hundreds of millions of dollars to hire more medical providers. The Senate bill would allow the VA to rent 26 new facilities in 17 states, and spend about $500 million to bring on additional doctors and nurses. However, a national shortage of primary care physicians, which is expected to worsen in upcoming years, may make new hires difficult to find.
The VA currently serves nearly nine million veterans. The results of the audit have prompted the agency to remove many of its top officials. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki resigned on May 30. The agency’s inspector general has announced that follow-up investigations of its medical facilities are in progress.
Veterans who have been unable to get a doctor’s appointment may seek help of a skilled VA lawyer right away.
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