VA secretary: You don't judge your experience at Disneyland based on the wait times, do you?

If there was a chance you’d die while in line for Space Mountain, I’m thinking you might.

People are wondering on Twitter how long it’ll be before the VA introduces a Fastpass+ program for vets.


Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald on Monday compared the length of time veterans wait to receive health care at the VA to the length of time people wait for rides at Disneyland, and said his agency shouldn’t use wait times as a measure of success because Disney doesn’t either.

“When you got to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what’s important? What’s important is, what’s your satisfaction with the experience?” McDonald said Monday during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with reporters. “And what I would like to move to, eventually, is that kind of measure.”…

The VA secretary said most veterans report being satisfied with their care and argued that the average wait time for a veteran seeking VA treatment is only a matter of days.

Days, huh? That depends on how much you trust the VA’s record-keeping. A GAO report released last month found that three of the six VA centers they inspected claimed shorter wait times than vets had actually experienced in 25 percent of cases surveyed. The audit concluded that was due to inconsistent record-keeping, not deliberate manipulation, but the fact remains that the average wait was much longer than reported — not the four- to 28-day range that the VA claimed but 11-48 days. That’s not “days.” It’s weeks.


Repeat: Weeks.

Meanwhile, USA Today reported last month after reviewing dozens of investigation reports into VA practices that some facilities are deliberately manipulating their data on wait times to make it seem as though vets are being seen more quickly than they are. That sort of book-cooking was supposed to have ended after the VA scandal first broke in 2014. It hasn’t:

Employees at 40 VA medical facilities in 19 states and Puerto Rico regularly “zeroed out” veteran wait times, the analysis shows. In some cases, investigators found manipulation had been going on for as long as a decade. In others, it had been just a few years.

In many cases, facility leaders told investigators they clamped down the scheduling improprieties after the Phoenix scandal, but in others, investigators found they had continued unabated.The manipulation masked growing demand as new waves of veterans returned from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and as Vietnam veterans aged and needed more health care…

The newly released findings of those probes show that supervisors instructed schedulers to manipulate wait times in Arkansas, California, Delaware, Illinois, New York, Texas and Vermont, giving the false impression facilities there were meeting VA performance measures for shorter wait times.


The Disneyland comment is the logical end point of VA futility in trying to reduce bureaucracy and admit veterans more quickly. If you can’t get wait times down after a decade of trying and a hellacious scandal in which vets died while awaiting treatment, what’s left except to start downplaying wait times entirely? Don’t focus on how long you waited. Focus on … how much fun you had in the CAT scan room, I guess?

Exit question: How do you separate wait times from “satisfaction with the experience” in the context of medical treatment?

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Beege Welborn 12:01 PM on September 27, 2023