EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

June 10, 2014

VA audit: Mass. faring well on wait times

BOSTON (AP) — The Veterans Affairs Department says fewer than 600 patients in Massachusetts are waiting for initial medical appointments at VA hospitals and clinics 90 days or more after requesting them.

That’s compared to the more than 57,000 patients nationwide.

“The health and wellbeing of our veterans and servicemembers is a moral responsibility and a national priority. But today’s report detailing inexcusable, systemic problems with the Veteran’s Affairs healthcare system shows that for too long, in too many places this responsibility has been forsaken,” said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, D-Lowell.

Of the 64,000 patients who enrolled in the VA health care system nationwide over the past 10 years who have never had appointments, fewer than 900 sought treatment in Massachusetts.

The department says an audit of 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics released Monday found the agency’s complicated appointment process created confusion among scheduling clerks and supervisors.

While Massachusetts fared better than many states, there was one sobering statistic.

The VA’s Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System had one of the top 10 longest wait times at 67 days for new patients trying to see a specialist.

“I have been monitoring this situation closely and in recent weeks, I voted in support of several bipartisan bills including initiatives to increase the accountability of senior VA officials and to streamline human resources actions,” Tsongas said. “And this week the House will carefully consider further legislation to address the VA’s deficiencies. However, the VA will continue to require both stringent oversight and support from Congress so that changes are put in place to ensure veterans are receiving the care they have earned and deserve.

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