To the Editor:
The problem plaguing Veterans Affairs is out in the open; unable to comply with the mandate for a 15-day window for appointments, several VA medical facilities opted for maintaining two separate lists. One report was submitted monthly, indicating compliance with the appointment criteria and a real one in which vets had to wait an inordinate amount of time (in some cases up to six months).
Forty veterans supposedly died while waiting for an appointment.
I am sure that every one of those records will undergo a detailed scrutiny and we will know the truth.
For the VA hospitals to maintain two separate lists is inexcusable. The fact that it is widespread makes it worse. The question is, why?
Apparently this has been going on since at least 2008. One reason could be shortages in technicians and specialists. That could have a serious impact not only on the type and quality of care but also its frequency and continuity.
Physicians at VA hospitals are salaried, the turnover ratio is very high. Some patients are assigned to as many as three physicians in a 12-month period. On the other hand, there was a report that a civilian cardiologist saw as many patients in one week as a VA cardiology section with a staff of seven or cardiologists. If this is true, someone is not earning their salary.
Sen. (John) McCain suggested that veterans be issued a card authorizing civilian medical care.
I assume that the present VA ID could serve that purpose by adding civilian care, this would allow vets to get medical care anywhere. It would be especially beneficial to those that have to travel 2-4 hours to a VA facility.
The issues in question should be dealt with as soon as possible; after a complete investigation. That being said and looking at the entire scheme of events, demonizing the VA system and firing the secretary is not going to bring an immediate solution to the problem.
Despite the present crisis, the VA has always been there for veterans, service connected or indigent. I am in total agreement with the proposal by members of Congress to give the secretary full authority to fire or demote any of the 450 senior career employees, including hospital directors and executives.
Pedro C. Santiago