On Tuesday Pinellas Congressman David Jolly held what his office called a "VA Intake" day, where more than 300 local veterans turned up to tell his staffers and himself the level of care they've received at their local Veteran Affairs hospital. Jolly announced the event several weeks ago, when the crisis in the VA system had reached white-hot levels, with information about fake wait lists indicating that there was serious corruption going on in some of the VA's across the country. The scandal reached such a high level of attention that it ultimately cost VA General Eric Shinseki his job.
On Wednesday, Jolly's office released information from the 183 vets who took the time to complete a survey on their level of care. The results showed that 68 percent say they have received care described as either excellent, good or adequate. However, nearly a third of local vets said they've had to wait more than 45 days at some point to see a primary care physician.
Jolly has been promoting the notion that those on such waiting lists be moved to private care doctors, and apparently that's already been happening. Forty percent had already requested at some point to be referred to a non-VA provider. Of those that sought outside care, 48% rated that experience as either poor or very poor, indicating that for all its faults, the VA on average probably offers a better healthcare experience than what Americans might find in the private sector.
“There is a strong interest on the part of local veterans to go outside the VA system for care. And if the VA cannot provide timely care at VA facilities, veterans should have expanded options to see private sector doctors and medical providers,” Jolly said in a statement accompanying the survey results.
"At a time when we are hearing about wait times lasting months, we must eliminate barriers that prevent veterans from getting the care they deserve," he went on to say. "The VA has made great strides in the last several weeks to clear the wait list by using non-VA medical providers. But long-term reform must include statutory changes to fully put veterans in charge of their healthcare. Veterans deserve a choice. Plain and simple."
An internal VA audit
released last week found that tens of thousands of newly returning veterans wait at least 90 days for medical care, while even more who signed up in the VA system over the past 10 years never got an immediate appointment they requested.
The VA has acknowledged 23 deaths nationwide due to delayed care.