VA improvements are welcome, but too few

The following editorial appeared in the Fayetteville Observer:

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald took over the beleaguered agency in July after a hospital wait-time and falsified-records scandal forced his predecessor, Eric Shinseki, to resign. McDonald has offered some hopeful news, saying waits are down 18 percent at VA hospitals and clinics.

Average wait times went from 51 days in May to 42 by Oct. 1. But that’s still too long. Civilian patients find another doctor when encountering such nonsense. Veterans shouldn’t have to tolerate it, either.

McDonald’s goal is 30 days. That would be closer to reality, but it’s still a bit long for those facing serious health issues.

The improvements in Fayetteville have been especially small. The situation here is challenging because our veteran population continues to boom. Two new temporary clinics should help until more permanent fixes are put in place. The west Fayetteville health care center, slated to open next fall, holds promise.

Also promising is the move to give those facing more than 30-day waits the option of private care. Congress passed the necessary legislation this summer, and choice cards are going out this month.

As McDonald seeks further progress, that sort of flexible solution, foreign to the VA’s old culture, needs continued consideration.

MCT Information Services