Thursday, October 25, 2007

How long do vets wait?

The Charlotte Observer published the results of their analysis of a couple internal VA reports on the timeliness of care being offered to Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans on 10-21-2007. Here are some of the highlights of the article about their analysis which is detailed in an interactive feature on their site:

The analysis of 283,000 recent outpatient appointments showed that the VA scheduled 93 percent within 30 days, a key measure of the agency's ability to meet demand. That left 20,500 waiting longer.

At issue: Patients needing critical care accounted for 10.5 percent of total appointments scheduled, but 20 percent of those with longer waits.

The Observer's findings could signal that the VA is struggling to care for the neediest of the new veterans.

...Most VA hospitals, including all six in the Carolinas, showed lags in delivering outpatient care for serious problems, according to the newspaper's analysis. For example:

• Twenty-four percent of appointments nationwide for traumatic brain injury care exceeded the 30-day mark this summer.

• At the Salisbury VA hospital, 61 percent of appointments for the seriously wounded were scheduled more than 30 days out this summer, one of the worst records nationwide.

• At the Charleston VA in South Carolina, 13 of 14 patients slated to be seen for brain injury waited more than a month. At 93 percent, that was the worst record nationwide.

The Charlotte Observer's article also highlighted an investigative report (pdf) released on Sept, 10, 2007 by the VA's inspector general.

VA investigators said last month that the agency overstates how quickly it cares for veterans. The VA's investigative arm examined care wait times for veterans of all eras.

They said 75 percent of veterans were seen within the required 30 days, not the 95 percent the VA claims.

The part of the Charlotte Observer's report that will be of interest to those outside the Observer's readership area is the interactive graphic created from the reports. 20071025charlottevahosp.png
Click on image to go to interactive graphic
Click on the location of any VA hospital center in the nation and another page will open up with the stats for waits over 30 days, 90 days and 120 days for various categories of care provided by that center on a reporting day in mid-summer 2007. Click on the link near the top for the stats on a later 2007 date.

Per a follow-up report from the Observer, Sen. Patty Murray took note of their report and asked for additional explanations. Do let the Charlotte Observer know that you appreciate their investigative efforts.

It's important to encourage investigative reporting wherever we find it lest those who assign and approve the stories decide that no one is reading them and fail to assign or approve them anymore.


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