Overlong wait times have been one of the Department of Veteran Affairs' biggest and most chronic problems for years. After facing criticism and scandals, the VA has instituted new measures to cut wait times by expanding veteran benefits to allow access to private sector physicians. Even with the recent changes, they have a lot of ground to cover.
According to News Channel 8 in Florida, the national office of the Veterans of Foreign Wars found that, after close analysis, 26 percent of veterans seeking treatment from private doctors still had to wait 30 days or more to get an appointment.
Why the long delays? Until a few months ago, the VA had treated the private sector as a pressure release valve – to be used only in case of emergency.
"VA has traditionally wanted to be everything for every veteran," a VFW senior legislative aid told the news channel. "And what the health care crisis taught is that you know that's not plausible, not very feasible for the VA to provide every instance of care to every veteran."
The Veterans Choice program, unveiled in late 2015, was meant to open up treatment possibilities and cut back on wait times and backlog. So far, however, the program has run into problems, in part due to miscommunication between the VA and Health Net, the contractor paid by VA to schedule appointments, about how many veterans would utilize the new option.
In North Carolina, only minutes from Fort Bragg, a new VA Health Care Center was just opened in Fayetteville. Legislators and VA officials alike promised that new center would brighten the outlook for local veterans, the Fayetteville Observer reported.
Fayetteville, with one of the nation's bigger veteran populations, had some notoriously bad wait times back in summer 2014, when Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson first visited. The new 250,000-square-foot outpatient facility is a big step toward righting that wrong.