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A Jumble of Wait Times for VA Medical Care

 

Last updated 5/24/2022 at 3:07pm | View PDF

A recent audit by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General outlined what so many of us already knew -- that it's difficult to understand the wait times for appointments and medical care at the VA. It seemed to some of us that the rules changed day by day, that our appointments were at the whim of whatever program was being followed at the time and that there was no transparency about how those dates were calculated. Turns out that we were right all along.

In a perfect world, wait times at the VA always begin with an accurate starting point. If, for example, a veteran wants to seek civilian care because the wait is too long at the VA, he doesn't qualify for that outside care until he's waited a certain amount of time. Precisely when that period of time begins is at the heart of the problem.

Since 2014, the OIG discovered, the VA has used various methods of calculating wait time and figuring out when the criteria is met to seek civilian care. The rules for those calculations were in writing back to 2014. But without following those rules consistently, wait times varied and wandered all over the place. It didn't help that the website gave misleading information about how dates were to be calculated, with differences between wait times for new patients and what was written in the scheduling directive.

Enter the OIG, with its excellent investigators who always leave no stone unturned. While the recent audit doesn't assign blame (which the OIG won't hesitate to do when it's called for), the VA knew about these problems. The OIG has officially asked the VA to respond and let them know what steps they're going to take to fix this.

To read the details, go to http://www.va.gov/oig/pubs/VAOIG-21-02761-125.pdf. Don't miss the timeline on the cardiology patient whose provider wanted him seen pronto. There was a 66 day wait.

(c) 2022 King Features Synd., Inc.

 

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