Feinstein Calls for Review of Wait Times at Calif. VA Health Centers
On Monday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Department of Veterans Affairs acting Secretary Sloan Gibson requesting that the agency review wait times at VA health facilities in California, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports.
The letter comes after Eric Shinseki last week stepped down as VA secretary in light of a waitlist scandal in the VA health system that prompted more than 100 members of Congress to call for his resignation.
California has the largest veteran population in the U.S., with more than 1.8 million veterans living in the state (Tate, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 6/2).
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.
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" (California Healthline, 5/28).
Details of Feinstein's Request
Feinstein submitted the request to VA after learning about the wait times in Long Beach and Los Angeles, according to "Capitol Alert."
In the letter, Feinstein wrote, "It is critical that [VA] take steps to ensure that California's veterans do not suffer negative health care outcomes due to untimely delays in receiving medical appointments," adding that the agency should treat the situation as "a public health crisis."
Meanwhile, Feinstein in a separate statement said lawmakers should change the way that VA operates by:
- Granting the VA secretary greater authority to fire employees who are not performing well;
- Granting veterans the ability to seek care at non-VA facilities;
- Increasing funding to boost staff levels at VA facilities; and
- Making changes to VA's system for scheduling medical appointments.