VA audit offers look at Massachusetts wait times
BOSTON (AP) — The Veterans Affairs Department has found that fewer than 600 U.S. military veterans in Massachusetts were still waiting for initial medical appointments at VA hospitals and clinics 90 days or more after requesting them. Nationwide the number was 57,000.
And of the 64,000 veterans who enrolled in the VA health care system but never got an appointment during the past 10 years — apparently falling through the cracks — fewer than 900 sought treatment in Massachusetts.
The audit released Monday still found long wait lists at some Massachusetts facilities for new patients looking to see a specialist or primary care doctor.
According to the report, the VA’s Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System had one of the top 10 longest wait times at 67 days for new patients trying to see a specialist.
The VA’s Boston Healthcare System had average wait time of 54 days for a new patient looking to see a specialist. For the VA’s Bedford facility, the wait time for a specialist for new patients was 40 days.
Overall, the average wait time in the Central Western system for new primary care patients was 72 days, compared to 59 days at the Boston location and 12 days at the Bedford facility.
The audit also looked at the wait times for new patients seeking mental health services.
For the Central Western system the mental health services wait time for new patients seek was 28 days, compared to 26 days for the Boston system and 35 days for Bedford.
The Central Western system says it provides primary, specialty, and mental health care — including psychiatric, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder services — to a veteran population of more than 120,000 in central and western Massachusetts.
The VA also runs an outpatient clinic in Hyannis. That is considered part of the department’s Rhode Island system.
The audit is the first nationwide look at the VA network in the uproar that began with reports two months ago of patients dying while awaiting appointments and of cover-ups at the Phoenix VA center.
Examining 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics, the audit found long wait times across the country for patients seeking their first appointments with both primary care doctors and specialists.
The audit is the third in a series of reports in the past month into long wait times and falsified records at VA facilities nationwide. The controversy forced VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign May 30.