California Veterans Experiencing Long Wait Times at VA Hospitals
Wait times for primary care at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals in California can be as long as 90 days, driving some veterans to seek care outside of the VA system, the Orange County Register reports.
Details of Wait Times
Southern California has one of the largest veteran populations in the U.S., with VA hospitals in Long Beach and Los Angeles serving about 140,000 veterans last year.
Veterans who use the Los Angeles and Long Beach VA facilities have reported waiting:
- Up to 90 days to see a primary care physician; and
- Up to eight months to see a specialist.
Such lengthy wait times can cause veterans to seek private health care outside of the VA system, according to the Register.
A spokesperson for the Long Beach VA hospital said it can be difficult to ensure patients are able to see a doctor within 14 days of requesting an appointment because of a physician shortage. The spokesperson added, "We use the wait list to see where we have gaps where we might have problems -- where we need additional resources."
VA Secretary Orders National Review of Wait Times
The long wait times at VA hospitals in California appear to mirror national trends, according to the Register.
Following accusations that long wait times at VA medical centers caused at least 23 veterans' deaths, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki last week ordered a systemwide audit of wait times and other deficiencies in the entire VA system.
The audit will be conducted by the Office of the Inspector General, which will specifically look for any criminal activity in record falsification, the Register reports.
In a statement, the Los Angeles VA hospital said it "will be part of the national audit and welcomes the opportunity for an external set of eyes to take a look at [its] scheduling operations" (Hood/Hansen, Orange County Register, 5/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.