VA health care wait times getting better – unless you live in the South

The chronic delays plaguing the Veterans Affairs health system are concentrated in a fraction of its hospitals and clinics – many of them in the South – that have done far worse than others in delivering prompt care, according to government data reviewed by The Associated Press.

A year after Americans recoiled at revelations that sick veterans were getting sicker while languishing on waiting lists, VA statistics show that the number of patients facing long waits has not declined, even after Congress gave the department an extra $16.3 billion last summer to shorten waits for care.

Nearly 894,000 appointments completed at VA medical facilities from Aug. 1 to Feb. 28 failed to meet the health system’s timeliness goal, which calls for patients to be seen within 30 days. More than a quarter of those appointments involved a delay of longer than 60 days.

Since the summer, the number of vets waiting more than 30 or 60 days for non-emergency care has largely stayed flat. The number of medical appointments that take longer than 90 days to complete has nearly doubled.

Those delays were not spread evenly throughout the VA’s vast network of hospitals and clinics.

Many occurred in a handful of Southern states, often in areas with a strong military presence, a rural population and patient growth that has outpaced the VA’s sluggish planning process.

47 clinics and hospitals represent just a fraction of the more than 1,000 VA facilities nationwide, but they were responsible for more than one in five of the appointments that took longer than 60 days to complete

The AP examined six months of appointment data at 940 individual VA facilities to gauge changes since a scandal over delays led to the resignation of the VA’s secretary and prompted lawmakers in August to give the VA an additional $16.3 billion to hire doctors, open more clinics and build the new Choice program that allows patients facing long delays to get private-sector care…The analysis reveals stark differences between the haves and have-nots.

In the Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Coast states, few VA sites reported having significant delays. A little less than half of all VA hospitals and clinics reported averaging fewer than two appointments per month that involved a wait of more than 60 days.

But at the VA’s outpatient clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, 7,117 appointments completed between Sept. 1 and Feb. 28 involved a wait of more than 60 days. There were more vets experiencing extended delays there than in the entire states of New York and Pennsylvania combined.

RTFA if you want more examples, lots of statistics illustrating regional distortions beyond comprehension. I haven’t been in a VA hospital for years and most of those I ever visited were in New England where they take care of business pretty well. At least since Reagan left office.

You’d think that with all the agitprop our politicians spew on a regular basis about our holy wars and even-holier warriors they might want competent oversight of the buck$ we regularly throw at problems like this.

Or not.