House Panel Reviews VA Patient Wait Times

The House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations recently held a hearing on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) policies on scheduling and measuring patient wait times. A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified inconsistencies in patient wait times as reported by the VA, including unreliable information and varying degrees of policy implementation.

The lengthy scheduling process and wait times have been a long-standing problem within the VHA, with the GAO reporting on the issue for more a decade. Most recently (December 2012), GAO also found that reported wait times for outpatient medical appointment were unreliable. In an April 2012 report, the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General found that the Veterans’ Health Administration (VHA) does not have a reliable and accurate method for determining whether they are providing patients timely access to mental health care. First-time patients often wait more than 14 days beyond their desired date of care for treatment appointments and it takes an average of 50 days for mental health patients to get a meeting with a behavioral counselor.