VA Skewed Wait Times for Veterans Seeking Care

U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Sean Stevenson takes a knee while on a security patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan, June 6, 2011. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Nathan McCord/Released)

Despite a 33 percent increase in veterans seeking mental health services over the last five years, the Department of Veterans Affairs maintains a majority got care in a timely manner.

However, an inspector general report finds the VA calculations were slanted according to Larry Abramson’s report on NPR.

Now, any vet asking for help is supposed to be evaluated within 24 hours and start treatment within two weeks. The VA has claimed that happens in the vast majority of cases, but a new investigation by the agency’s inspector general says the VA statistics are skewed to make wait times appear shorter.

… The inspector general’s report says, rather than starting the clock from the moment a vet asks for mental health care, the VA has been counting from whenever the first appointment became available. That could add weeks or months to the wait time.

Last week, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced the plan to hire an additional 1,900 mental health experts to help.

“History shows that the costs of war will continue to grow for a decade or more after the operational missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended. As more Veterans return home, we must ensure that all Veterans have access to quality mental health care,” Shinseki said.

Yet, retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli, former vice chief of staff of the Army, told NPR News there aren’t enough good clinicians and their numbers aren’t increasing.

“The issue isn’t whether the VA hires more behavioral health specialists or whether the military hires more behavioral health specialists,” Chiarelli says, “they’re hiring them from a set pool. The fact of the matter is we don’t have enough.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs declined to comment for NPR’s  story, instead the VA released a statement saying it endorses the inspector general’s findings. The Senate is set to hear more on the issue Wednesday.

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3 Responses

  1. The question is the relevance: PTSD.
    Initially it arise from a TBI, is worsened by war’s theatre scenes and require tempestivity of cares.
    We have required to warriors to be ready on war on any time and situation, to be resilient, skill and have all other requisites.
    Now we must have the same tempestivity on enable them an access to care of the invisible wound, that we call PTSD. The costs may be relevant as relevant is the number of warriors returned by war.
    This must not be an alibi to justify retards.The same not the economic crisis, whose responsability is not of veterans.
    PTSD is not a health problem that may wait the times of burocracy or the crisis solution.
    Any action must consider the subject “veteran”, the problem “PTSD”, the “tempestivity of diagnosis and care”, the “sentiments of veterans and their families”. I hope and wish the problem will have soon a solution, with an interplay beetween military an civil healt systems, whose physicians may be synergistically alerted and used.
    Claudio Alpaca

  2. That’s the government for you…twisting its own rules to suit its purposes. And who has over site of our government…oh yeah…it is supposed to be WE the People!

  3. [...] this month, an inspector generals report found that the VA skewed its waiting times to make it appear that Veterans were receiving mental [...]

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