By Fenit Nirappil
Facing a national outrage over delayed treatment of veterans in Phoenix and other parts of the country, the Department of Veterans Affairs began publishing monthly data showing the wait times to get appointments at each of its facilities.
The agency has touted across-the-board improvements, but its new method of calculating delays from the preferred date of the appointment rather than when the appointment request was made has drawn criticism for painting a rosy picture. Investigations by media outlets including CNN and federal investigators have also uncovered falsified records to hide delays.
Those caveats aside, an analysis of wait times in September 2015, the most recent month of data available, shows improvement in facilities in Washington, Maryland and Virginia. Of 33 facilities, 18 reduced the share of patients waiting more than a month.
The Hampton, Virginia, clinic deals with the notoriety of having the nation’s longest average wait (at more than 30 days) to secure an appointment after a January 2015 data report. It has since rebounded with 96 percent of patients getting appointments within a month of their preferred date after promising 33 new exam rooms and nine new doctors.
The highest percentage of delayed treatment is in Hampton’s satellite clinic in Virginia Beach, with almost 10 percent of patients, more than 250, having to wait more than a month for an appointment. It’s still a dramatic improvement from a year ago when a quarter of patients waited that long.