SEATTLE — After a recent investigation into VA hospitals in Washington, auditors flagged seven facilities for further review.
That same audit by the Office of the Inspector General found an average wait time of 58 days for new primary care patients. That is lower than the national average of 90 days.
Investigators also flagged the VA Puget Sound for further review, along with VA Puget Sound American Lake, Spokane, Walla Walla VMAC, Portland VAMC Vancouver, South Sound CBOC Chehalis, and Wenatchee CBOC.
Last month, a spokesperson for VA Puget Sound said, “The audit went well and revealed no significant issues, no findings of inappropriate record keeping or ‘secret lists’.”
On Monday, that same spokesperson said, “VA Puget Sound administrators were unaware, until the report was released, that it had been selected for additional review. We are not aware of any specific scheduling issues related to the OIG report. The OIG will determine when and by whom the additional review will be conducted.”
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said, “It is the U.S. government’s solemn duty to care for our veterans. An average wait of 28 to 58 days for VA care in Washington state is unacceptable. The Department of Veterans Affairs must address these systemic problems immediately. The Department needs to act quickly to get veterans access to the care they deserve, and correct this problem for the long-term.”
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., issued the following statement:
“Today’s report paints a serious and disturbing picture of the VA’s system-wide failure to provide timely access to care for our nation’s heroes. I am especially concerned by the number of facilities that serve Washington state veterans that have been flagged for further review and investigation. This information confirms what I have been hearing from so many veterans who are struggling with extended wait times in the Pacific Northwest.
“These are not new problems, but I hope today’s data will spur continued bipartisan momentum as we work to pass the Sanders-McCain compromise. Finalizing this legislation is a critical step toward addressing some of the immediate accountability and access concerns plaguing the VA. In addition, as further investigations and reviews are completed, we need to keep working to ensure the VA continues to take substantive action to address any management, resource, and personnel shortcomings that have contributed to today’s findings.”
The VA announced it is now in the process of contacting 90,000 vets to check on wait times. If they can’t get an appointment at the VA within 30 days, they will be approved to see a private doctor.