WASHINGTON: At least 100,000 veterans are enduring long wait times to access VA healthcare, according to a report released by the agency on Monday.
The report added another day of negative headlines to the government agency’s response to a crisis that has already claimed the job of one cabinet member: former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.
As of May 15, there were more than 6 million appointments scheduled across the Veterans Health Administration. According to an audit, more than 57,000 veterans have been waiting more than 90 days for their first appointment, and more than 63,000 others who enrolled in the healthcare system in the past 10 years have yet to be seen by a doctor.
The VA released the results of its access audit conducted May 12 through June 3 in an effort to gauge the "integrity" of scheduling and access management practices system-wide, according to the document. More than 3,700 VA staffers were interviewed and 731 facilities were included in the audit.
It found confusion about the "overly complicated scheduling process." The audit also determined it was "simply not attainable" to achieve a 14-day wait period for veterans because of how many require care.
Of the scheduling personnel interviewed, only 13% said they were instructed to record the date of a requested appointment, or "date desired," differently than what a veteran had requested. The VA had found that situation occurred at least once at 76% of facilities, according to the report.
"Findings indicate that in some cases, pressures were placed on schedulers to utilize inappropriate practices in order to make waiting times…appear more favorable," the report stated.
According to The Washington Post, interim VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said the issues "demand immediate action" in a statement released on Monday.