LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nearly 1,000 veterans who requested an initial appointment in Iowa or Nebraska Veterans Affairs facilities over the last decade were not able to be seen, according to a national audit released Monday.
The VA audit — based on a snapshot of agency data from May 15 — showed 987 enrolled veterans had sought appointments at one of three facilities — two in Iowa, and one in Nebraska that serves western Iowa.
The VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System had 606 appointment requests during the last decade that had not been scheduled. The VA Central Iowa Health Care System had 274 requests, and the Iowa City VA Health Care System had 107.
The number represents veterans who indicated on paper or online that they wanted an appointment when they enrolled in VA services, said regional VA spokeswoman Sharyl Schaepe. Schaepe said VA officials were working to learn if the people who sought appointments need treatment sooner, and if they’re willing to travel to another facility that can accommodate them. Patients are sometimes placed on official waiting lists because of a lack of clinic space and providers, she said.
The three facilities are looking at group appointments and telemedicine technology to reach out to more veterans quickly, Schaepe said. Some outpatient clinics have also expanded their hours to include nights and weekends. Schaepe said the national VA office plans to release updated numbers from each facility every two weeks to ensure they’re making progress.
“We expect our numbers to improve as we continue to accelerate this care,” she said.
The report shows that 317 new patients in the three facilities were placed on official VA waiting lists for initial appointments. New patients are placed on waiting lists when an appointment can’t be scheduled within 90 days, although they sometimes can get in sooner because of cancellations. VA officials say the waiting list numbers fluctuate daily.