Review on Veterans Access to Health Care Reveals Cracks in System
Washington, D.C. - A report released this week on the access to care in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) shows that long-term care services are severely underfunded and that the waiting time for care is excessive for many veterans, especially in Hawaii.
Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) requested the review by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (IG). The review was predicated on reports that clinics were illegally restricting entry to clinics and access to certain health services. VHA has an effective process to ensure that all eligible veterans had adequate access to care. The review found the following:
The IG review is based on visits to five medical facilities and two Veterans Integrated Service Networks. They were located in Hawaii, Alaska, New York Harbor, Tampa, and Portland.
In its review, the IG found that veterans in Hawaii who needed speciality procedures waited the longest. Specifically, Hawaii's veterans waited on average 63 days for cardiology services and 135 days for gastroenterology care.
"I am particularly concerned that of the facilities reviewed by the IG, Hawaii's veterans were forced to wait the longest for cardiology and gastroenterology procedures," said Senator Akaka. "However, I am confident that the leadership at the Hawaii VA will be able to improve things."
Since Senator's Akaka's visit in June 2005 to various Hawaii VA centers, improvements have been made to providing certain services to veterans. During congressional field hearings in the State of Hawaii in January, Senator Akaka expressed concern over VA's lack of funding for proper health care for veterans and restrictions on which Maui veterans could get needed long-term care services. VA officials told Senator Akaka they would lift those restrictions and all of Maui veterans are now getting home care and other long-term care services.
Overall, the IG review supports Senator Akaka's commitment to addressing the lack of funding in VA.
"The IG has once again shown us that underfunding VA means that veterans do not get the care they deserve – be those long-term care services or critical cardiac procedures. Indeed, investigators found that budget shortfalls led to illegal restrictions on care."
The Review of Access to Care in the Veterans Health Administration, is available on-line at http://www.va.gov/oig.
Senator Akaka is the Ranking Member on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.