VA Secretary Pledges Lower Wait Times for Medical Care
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake on Thursday pledged to reduce the time it takes veterans to receive medical care and disability claims payments, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Peake, who spoke at a House Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing, said he would work to reduce wait times for VA medical care from about 180 days to 145 days by 2009. The department will hire 3,100 new employees by 2009 and will work to gain greater online access to Pentagon medical information, which will allow staff to process claims faster and move toward an electronic claims filing system, according to Peake.
Peake also said he would "virtually eliminate" the current list of 69,000 veterans who have waited more than 30 days for an appointment at a VA medical facility. VA plans to open 64 new community-based outpatient clinics this year and 51 in 2009 to improve access to care in rural areas, Peake said. In addition, Peake said he would work to reduce by five weeks the amount of time it takes for veterans to receive their first disability check.
Peake also said President Bush's fiscal year 2009 budget proposal includes adequate funding for the needs of Iraq war veterans. The budget proposal contains $91 billion for VA in FY 2009, a 3.7% increase from FY 2008 (Yen, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/8).