Second Audit: Average VA wait times for new patients seeking primary care goes up by four days

BALTIMORE - A second audit from the  U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs shows average wait times for new patients seeking primary care went up by about four days since the previous audit.

The original audit shows data from May 15, and lists the average wait time for new primary care patients at around 81 days. Monday, data from June 1 shows veterans new to the system seeking primary care appointments are waiting 85.5 days to be seen. The wait time for established patients trying to get a primary care appointment stayed around four days.

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Last month, the VA kicked off the Accelerating Access to Care Initiative -- a program aimed to improve access to timely care for veterans. The VA released a 'Final Access Audit Report' to find out what's behind the scheduling dilemmas. According to the report, front-line staff members say the biggest challenge to providing timely care was lack of provider slots. They also listed limited clerical staffing and inadequate training of schedulers as other issues. The VA says this behavior is counter to their core values and they will confront the issues head on.

Monday, lawmakers came out to the Baltimore VA Medical Center to take a look at what's been going on since the national audit came out.

"When our men and women left to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, when they were drafted to fight in Vietnam and Korea, and when they so valiantly fought in Desert Storm, we said if you fight for us, we'll fight for you when you get back home," said Senator Barbara A. Mikulski. "And to make sure that you have the healthcare you need when you need it in the best possible circumstances. We were very disturbed to hear that nationwide there problems with cooking the books on waiting times for veterans."

The lawmakers got a first-hand look earlier today at some of the facilities in Maryland. They say overall the veterans "love" the care they're getting here.


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