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.