Shortly after moving to Louisville, Patricia Mahaun stopped by the local veterans hospital in October, hoping to find a new doctor, get checked for a possible urinary tract infection and get a flu shot.
The Air Force veteran had been going to a Veterans Affairs clinic in Texas for years, so she expected no problem scheduling an appointment with the Louisville VA. Instead, she waited six frustrating months before she finally saw a doctor.
“Medical care delayed is medical care denied,” said Mahaun, 64. “If I am experiencing this inexcusable delay, how many others in the Louisville area and beyond are also? It’s high time that we start treating veterans like the heroes that the public claims we are.”
Mahaun joins a growing chorus of veterans and officials outraged by delays in VA outpatient care being reported across the nation, prompting President Barack Obama to say last week that he will not tolerate them and to promise accountability.
The controversy first erupted over allegations that 40 patients at the Phoenix VA Health Care System in Arizona may have died waiting for care — spurring similar accusations in several states, an investigation by the VA Office of Inspector General and face-to-face audits at every facility. Auditors visited Louisville’s Robley Rex VA Medical Center on May 12 but have not released findings.
Judy Williams, spokeswoman for the Louisville VA, said she could not provide average wait times at local clinics or say how many complaints the local agency has received concerning waits. But Stephen George, spokesman for Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., said his office has recently heard from about 20 veterans complaining about waits that lasted three or four weeks.
Williams said that when a new patient requests care, “every attempt is made to give the patient an appointment within 30 days of their desired date.” Officials consider each case based on medical needs, she said, providing immediate care to those with urgent needs.
Nationally, the VA has set a goal of 14 days for wait times. The agency cares for about 6.5 million veterans and other beneficiaries in its facilities, which include 150 medical centers and 820 community-based outpatient clinics. Louisville’s VA serves more than 150,000 veterans.
SOURCE: Laura Ungar
The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal