A veteran’s healthcare bill signed into law Thursday by President Barack Obama seeks to improve access to care and reduce long waits veterans have experienced when trying to see a doctor.
In San Diego, VA Medical Center administrators say they hope funding from the new law will allow them to expand and hire more doctors.
“We don't know the total amount that will be directed to VA San Diego, but we have prioritized our critical positions and are in a position to move very quickly once we know how much of those resources will be directed to us,” said Cynthia Abair, the acting medical center director.
She said they want to add access for veterans in several areas including dermatology, GI procedures and the sleep clinic.
VA San Diego will also use the funding to help pay for the expansion of two additional clinics so the medical center has a place to put new doctors and nurses.
The bill will allow veterans who cannot get an appointment in 30 days or live 40 miles away from the medical center to use providers closer to home by using the Choice Card.
Veteran Henry Nelson told NBC 7 he has been very happy with his care at the San Diego VA, but said the funding is needed to make improvements.
“The VA is not equipped for as many veterans as there are now,” said Nelson. “I mean, we just came back, thousands of them from overseas. That's like forcing a lot of veterans on the system that is only designed for so many.”
Abair said just in the last two months, wait times have improved overall at the San Diego VA. Established patients are being seen in an average of five days and new patients are seen on average in 20 days.