VA Reports Progress in Reducing Wait Times for Medical Appointments

The American Legion invited veterans to speak out about their experiences with the VA Monday night at a town hall hosted by the American Legion at Hollywood post 43.

An increasing percentage of VA health care appointments in greater Los Angeles are being scheduled within the 30-day time frame set by the Obama Administration, according to figures shared at a town hall meeting for veterans Monday night at the Hollywood American Legion post.

Nearly 92 percent of appointments scheduled as of March 1 met the standard, according to Dr. Dean Norman, chief of staff for the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare system. In raw numbers, that represents 80,815 appointments.

But the appointments for 7,084 — or 8 percent of the total — stretched more than 30 days out. The audit data are posted on the VA website

It represents an improvement from reporting as of Aug. 1, 2013, which showed more than 13 percent of appointments failed to meet the 30-day standard.  

Reducing delays in providing health care became a priority of the Obama Administation after the revelation a year ago of a secret wait list at the VA in Phoenix. Later came reports of secret lists at other VA facilities, for the apparent purpose of hiding how long many had to wait, which in some cases was more than a year. 

The Obama administration responded with a pledge the VA would schedule and fulfill appointments within 30 days, or cover the cost of private medical care outside the VA.

In the past year, the American Legion has held a series of town halls across the nation.

"In most places, veterans tell us wait times have gotten shorter," said Verna Jones, American Legion executive director.

Many veterans still wait months for medical appointments with the VA Greater LA Healthcare System, concluded an investigation by CNN that cited internal VA data.
In response, the VA cited average wait times of four days for primary care and a week for specialty care.
For veterans, the town hall was an opportunity to ask questions on a variety of challenges encountered navigating the nationa's largest healthcare system.
Outside the West LA VA campus Monday, Army veteran Charles Williams recalled his doctor referring him to a pain management clinic.  However, Williams said his repeated phone messages requesting an appointment have not been answered.  
"I've been coming here twenty years," said Williams with a wistful smile. "I'm used to it."
Air Force veteran Jorge Betito said he has run into a series of snags and delays since his 2011 medical discharge for back problems. At times, Betito said he gave up and walked away. But last December he was able to meet with a neurosurgeon who scheduled and performed surgery within a handful of days.  
"There is progress," said Betito. "But there's still a lot of work left to be done."
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