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Veterans Groups Calling for Shorter Wait Times At V.A. Hospitals

By Paul Boger | Published 11 Jun 2014 08:30am | comments

Mississippi veterans groups are calling on the state's V.A. hospitals to improve wait times for patients seeking first-time appointments. Veterans in the Jackson area are waiting on average 45 days to be seen, while those on the coast are waiting 48 days. 

The G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery Medical Center, the state's largest veteran’s hospital, scheduled more than 42,000 appointments last month. Of those, more than 97 percent of them were scheduled with a 30-day window, yet first time patients waited on average, 45 days to see a doctor. That's three times longer than the hospitals goal of 14 days. Danny Williams with the Mississippi Department of the Veterans of Foreign Wars says most vets are happy with the care they receive at both the Jackson and Gulfport hospitals.

 "I don't get many complaints out of our V.A." says Williams. "Most of the vets I talk to they're happy, they get their appointments. Now that's an improvement from in the past too, because there were veterans in the past that said they were waiting 180 days. 45 days is a lot better, but it's not what we want to see. We want to see 14 days."

 In previous years, the G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery Veterans Administration Medical Center in Jackson has received numerous complaints about understaffing, poor sanitation, and improper care. Hugh Long, legislative liaison for the Mississippi V.F.W., says this is just another symptom of a system that has been broken for a long-time.

 "It's just something we've had to live with." Long says. "Nothing's been done with the oversight of the V.A., and I blame that on the Congress. The answer is either privatize the V.A.'s with contract employees or do away with them and give us vouchers."

 Officials with Mississippi V.A. hospitals say they are looking into the problems, but sight doctor shortages as the primary cause of the long waits. In the meantime, The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that would allow vets facing long delays to seek V.A. paid treatment from outside sources.

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