Conflicting Opinions Surround Veterans Healthcare

The VA has been portrayed poorly in the media, but some veterans report no issues with their healthcare.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been making headlines recently regarding long wait times for veterans wishing to receive medical care, in addition to other emerging issues.

Kaiser Health News reported that 2 years ago, a Veterans Affairs (VA) clinic in Phoenix had an average wait time of 115 days and some VA schedulers were told to create false data to create the illusion of shorter wait times, which lead to the resignation of VA secretary Eric Shinseki.

The VA’s new secretary, Robert McDonald, has recently been criticized for comparing waiting for healthcare to waiting in line for a ride at Disney.

The New York Times reported that McDonald said: “The days to an appointment is really not what we should be measuring. What we should be measuring is the veteran’s satisfaction. What really counts is how does the veteran feel about their encounter with the VA? When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? What is important is, what is your satisfaction with the experience.”

Outrage spread regarding his comments, prompting Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to create a petition for McDonald to resign.

The most recent scandal surrounding veterans’ care involved the Veterans Administration cutting off benefits for over 4200 vets who were wrongfully declared dead from 2011 to 2015, according to ABC News. Officials said the benefits to those veterans have since been restored.

Though the headlines have been overwhelmingly negative, some veterans have reported experiencing excellent care from their respective clinics.

“In my own experience, VA healthcare in the Northeast is very good. I have no complaints and I have a hard time understanding the negative opinions held with many of today's veterans,” a senior combat medic, who wishes to remain anonymous, told AJPB.

This medic served in the Army from 2011 to 2015. He said he has experienced a very different side to healthcare than many others because of his experiences in the Army. The medic said he believes that he has excellent judgement of what constitutes good healthcare.

He added that he has typically heard about poor healthcare from third parties, such as the news or online, besides one incidence.

“A former coworker of mine was upset with the method used to calculate his disability percentage. This affected the amount of money he received as disability pension, but had no bearing on his medical care,” he said.

To remedy the backlash from long wait times, the VA created Veterans Choice, which allows them to visit other physicians if there is an unacceptable wait time for care, or if a VA clinic is inaccessible. Critics have claimed this program is confusing to both VA personnel and the veterans themselves, but the medic said he has not experienced any problems with it and is glad he has not had a reason to use it.

“The VA makes a solid effort to inform every patient of their rights under Veterans Choice. I've heard about it but have never had to use it. There is a community clinic located in Piscataway with an average wait time of approximately 2 weeks for an appointment, in my experience,” he said.

A master-at-arms second class veteran of the US Navy also told AJPB he had no issues thus far with VA coverage, which he said was good. An improvement he suggested was remote appointments for patients seeking care that have access problems.

“I have heard of some doctors setting up Skype-style appointments for certain things. That might cut down on costs and wait times,” he said.

It is clear that the VA needs to implement some sort of action plan to make healthcare uniform across the country so all veterans can experience similar care to these 2 veterans.