Wait Times At The VA Increasing Despite Major Department Reforms

| by Ethan Brown

Despite a massive scandal last year that uncovered many of the miscommunications and office problems in the Department of Veterans Affairs, a new report shows that wait times for patients have doubled from the same time period last year.

In the spring of 2014, Veterans Affairs became embroiled in a scandal concerning the wait times of millions of patients. In June 2014, an internal VA audit revealed more than 120,000 veterans were left waiting or never got care; in addition, schedulers were encouraged to make waiting times appear more favorable. As a result, patients died while waiting for visits to their doctors.

Despite the promise of reforms within the system, a report released on June 21 from The New York Times, facts showcase the monetary and organizational problems the Department continues to have.

For example, the Times noted that the VA is facing a $3 billion budget gap, leading the government-run agency to furlough workers, temporary halt hiring any new employees, and other extreme measures. The budget shortfall proves even more detrimental considering the seven million new patient visits the Department has taken on this year.

The Times report also discusses controversy inside the VA over a new and effective, but costly, drug for Hepatitis C. The investigation states that VA officials are looking to cut costs “by possibly rationing new treatments among veterans and excluding certain patients who have advanced terminal diseases or suffer from a ‘persistent vegetative state or advanced dementia.'”

VA officials are expected to address members of Congress this week to receive authority from the government to allocate funds in other sections of the Department that are low on cash. However, Republicans who lead both houses of Congress object to removing needed funds from one important program to cover the cost of another, saying that it is not fair to veterans who have waited months for treatment.

Sloan Gibson, the VA’s deputy secretary told the Times that “something has to give” concerning the mismanagement of the Department.

“We can’t leave this as status quo. We are not meeting the needs of veterans, and veterans are signaling that to us by coming in for additional care, and we can’t deliver it as timely as we want to,” she stated.

Sources: The New York Times, Associated Press via The Washington Times

Photo Credit: The U.S. Army/Flickr