Have wait times improved at the VA to the point where veterans wait on average of just 4 days, as one official claimed about the Los Angeles VA system? Not according to a report over the weekend from CNN, where average wait times are 11 times longer — and hundreds of veterans have waited for more than six months for their initial appointment. Drew Griffin, one of the earliest reporters on this scandal, says that it’s almost impossible to trust VA’s public statements:
Records show on January 15, more than 1,600 veterans who were new patients were waiting 60 to 90 days for appointments. Another 400 veterans have waited up to six months, and 64 veterans had been waiting six months to a year for their appointments.
The documents provided to CNN show the lengthy wait times are still happening, within the last several months, and sources say the backlog is happening even now.
And yet last month, the VA’s acting director for the Western region overseeing the Los Angeles VA told Congress that veterans who are new patients there only have to wait a few days for appointments.
“The average wait time for a new patient right now is about four days,” Dr. Skye McDougall, the acting director of the Desert Pacific Healthcare Network, Veterans Health Administration, testified before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
But McDougall’s statement is simply not true.
According to the Los Angeles VA’s documents dated January 15, the actual average wait time for new patients at the VA was 48 days. A half-dozen medical and administrative sources inside the LA VA system corroborate these waits.
The wait times since then have not changed significantly — coming down slightly to a wait time of 44 days for new patients as of March 1, according to another VA document — and are still roughly 10 times what McDougall testified they were.
Perhaps Congress should consider hauling Skye McDougall back in front of the committee to explain the discrepancy. If internal VA documents show a 43.57-day average wait time for new appointments and more than 2,000 veterans out of 5,000 waiting between 30 days and six months, exactly what kind of VA math gets McDougall to a four-day average? They may not want to explain themselves to CNN and Drew Griffin, but the VA has to answer to Congress. Get ready for another application of the Lerner strategy if McDougall gets forced to appear again, though, because she may be at risk for charges of obstruction of Congress — and the DoJ probably won’t balk at prosecuting in this scandal.
Suzanne Malveaux followed up by asking Marine veteran Adam Banotai about the credibility of the VA. Bonatai says he’s not surprised, and explains how the VA tries to manipulate wait times, and says it’s not just Los Angeles:
Banotai says it’s time for private-choice options for all veterans. That time has been long overdue, and that will work a lot better and a lot faster than study committees intended to prop up the failing single-payer system.