VA Audit: 6 Percent of Appointments Over 30 Days in San Diego

In San Diego 4,021 or 6 percent of veterans seeking medical care were scheduled for a date beyond 30 days according to the audit

New details from the Department of Veterans Affairs national audit revealed there are over 57,000 new patients awaiting appointments at VA hospitals and clinics.

As of May 15, the audit shows VHA had over 6 million appointments scheduled overall. In San Diego, there were 65,764 scheduled.

Of those 4,021 or 6 percent were scheduled for a date beyond 30 days. That number was higher than the 4 percent average across the U.S. according to the audit.

Nationally, the report shows almost 64,000 veterans were waiting to be scheduled for care and another 143,000 who had enrolled in the system over the last 10 years but had not been seen for an appointment.

In San Diego, there were 830 veterans who had enrolled but had not yet been seen.

On the Electronic Wait List in San Diego, there were 334 veterans who VA officials describe as new patients who cannot be scheduled for an appointment until after 90 days.

Veterans in San Diego wait an average 43.7 days to see a primary care physician or a specialty care physician for the first time. In order to see a mental health expert, San Diego veterans wait an approximate 34.5 days on average for their first appointment.

Wait times for existing patients are far lower.

The agency's guideline stated that all vets should be seen by a primary care doctor within 14 days of their desired date.

Jeffrey T. Gering, Director of VA San Diego Healthcare System, told NBC 7 Monday that the 14 day average he once claimed was offered by the agency in San Diego is not accurate.

That goal has been changed as a result of the ongoing investigation into alleged fraud at some VA clinics that kept a separate, secret list of wait times outside of the computerized system to avoid alerting superiors in Washington, D.C.

As a result of these audits, some locations were flagged for further review and investigation. Among them are the VA Escondido Clinic at East Pennsylvania Avenue and the VA Imperial Valley Clinic on South Imperial Avenue in El Centro.

No specific information was given about what prompted the VA to identify those two facilities as needing review.

To correct the problem, the Veterans Health Administration is contacting 90,000 veterans. Also, Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson will travel to facilities across the nation to hear directly from vets.

VHA officials have said those veterans who don’t have an appointment or are waiting longer than 30 days will have the option to reschedule sooner or be referred to medical providers that are outside the agency.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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