Michigan veterans' centers have lengthy waits

Newly enrolled patients seeking care at Michigan's five medical centers for veterans wait an average of three to four weeks before getting an appointment, according to federal audit results released Monday.
AP Wire
Jun 10, 2014

The delays in some cases are more than twice as long as the 14-day target set by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2011, which the agency now says is unrealistic because of surging demand for services. Still, the Michigan facilities did considerably better than the worst performers nationwide, where average waits drag on for months.

The audit also shows that 1,555 veterans in Michigan have waited more than three months for appointments at the VA centers, while 1,686 who signed up for care within the past decade have yet to see a doctor or other professional.

"Today's internal audit report is further proof that delayed care for our veterans is a national crisis," said U.S. Rep. Dan Banishek, a Michigan Republican and member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. "Our nation's heroes should never have to wait over 30 days for an appointment."

He said the numbers for several of Michigan's centers were better than national averages but still could be improved.

The report said three of the facilities — the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and outpatient clinics in Muskegon and Lansing — were among nearly 70 nationwide requiring further review. But it offered no details. A spokesman for Sen. Carl Levin said the Michigan Democrat had asked the agency for an explanation.

"Although we do not know the reason for the follow-up visits or who will be conducting them, we will work in full cooperation with the audit team to address any issues they may have," said Derek Atkinson, spokesman for the Ann Arbor system.

The average wait for a patient seeking primary care for the first time is nearly 31 days at the John D. Dingell Detroit VA Healthcare System, the longest in Michigan, followed closely by the Ann Arbor facility at just under 30 days.

Other average waits included about 28 days at the Battle Creek VA Medical Center, 23 days at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain and 22 days at the Alefda E. Lutz VA Medical Center in Saginaw.

Waiting periods for new patients seeking specialist care were longer, ranging from 35 days at Saginaw to 59 days at Detroit. For mental health treatment, the Detroit center's wait was shortest at 20 days and Ann Arbor was longest at 27 days.

Patients already in the system had much shorter average waiting times, the longest being five days for specialty care at Battle Creek.

Alysse Mengason, spokeswoman for the Detroit medical center, said 98 percent of all veterans requesting an appointment there are seen within 30 days — a solid performance in view of a "drastic increase" in demand.

"Of course, we are striving to reduce that time frame each day," she said.

Comments

Lanivan

It seems many of the worst VA offenders in terms of long waiting lists are in areas where there has been a high number of retirees moving in, such as Arizona. Northern VA hospitals and clinics don't seem to have the high number of vets waiting for care.

As bad as this situation is, some perspective: The VA system is massive, with 150 VA hospitals, and 820 outpatient clinics. It treats 6 million vets a year, and has 9 million enrolled as patients.

The VA averages about 85 million appointments a year.

The number of vets seeking care has gone up 50% in the last few years; the number of new doctor hires has gone up just 9%.

Interestedreader

How about a new photo this was used before?

nextdoor

Maybe we should let them sign up for Obama care and let them see their own doctor or doctor of there choice.

gordbzz231

i dont how the system works, but that idea crossed my mind, let them see a doctor where he or she lives and be treated at a local hospital, makes more sense

Ole

new photo ? ? how about using an actual soldier or sailor for the photo, the kids salute alone would indicate he's not been close to a boot camp never mind actually being in the military....
As far as waits for Vets in this area . . . . . .
wait for it . . . . . . lets do some real reporting and ask actual Veterans.

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