Despite claims made to Congress that the Los Angeles Veterans Affairs (VA) facility makes patients wait only four days for an appointment, internal documents from the facility show that 12,700 appointments wound up taking over 90 days before they actually occurred. Some new patients also had to wait months: data from January 15 showed over 1,600 new patients waited between 60 to 90 days.
The records also reveal 400 patients waited as much as six months for an appointment, and another 64 patients were left waiting for six months to a year, according to CNN. The average wait time for veterans was 48 days on January 15, and dropped to 44 days by March 1. The documents’ data supplied to CNN was confirmed by medical and administrative sources within the VA.
Last month, Dr. Skye McDougall, the VA’s acting director for the Western region that supervises the Los Angeles VA, told the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs that the average waiting time for veterans was four days; she also testified that the average waiting time for mentally ill patients was four days. But the data show that 300 veterans with appointments at Los Angeles clinics for mental health waited between 30 and 90 days to be seen. A chart obtained by CNN from the LA VA reveals that as of March 1, new mental health patients were waiting an average of 36 days.
The VA protested that the data supplied to CNN “did not include same day appointments or in some cases same week appointments for those Veterans who need care quickly. New patients typically account for less than 10% of all Veteran appointments and are not representative of the whole patient population.” The VA also stated that new vets were waiting four days for an appointment in January and eight days in March.
The troubles at the VA continue despite the revelations of wrongdoing at the VA which eventually cost VA Secretary Eric Shinseki his job. Last June, the VA boasted: “Acting Secretary Gibson has directed VHA to immediately begin developing a new patient satisfaction measurement program to provide real-time, robust, location-by-location information on patient satisfaction, to include satisfaction data of those Veterans attempting to access VA healthcare for the first time.”
In the fall, Congress passed the Veterans Access Choice and Accountability Act, which required the VA “to offer an authorization to receive non-VA care to any veteran who is enrolled in the VA health care system as of August 1, 2014, or who is a newly discharged combat veteran if such veteran is unable to secure an appointment at a VA medical facility within 30 days.”