May 24 2016

Yellowhammer News: Shelby unloads after VA official says Disney doesn't measure wait times, so why should we?

WASHINGTON — Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) torched Department of Veterans Affairs Director Robert McDonald on Facebook for saying the VA does not need to calculate the wait times of those it serves.

“When you got to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what’s important? What’s important is, what’s your satisfaction with the experience?” Director McDonald said on Monday. “And what I would like to move to, eventually, is that kind of measure.”

Shelby, like many of his colleagues on Capitol Hill, was not amused by McDonald’s statements.

“This comment was completely inappropriate, and it underscores the problems with the Department,” Shelby said in a post on his Facebook Page.

The VA has been under constant attack during the Obama Administration for administering poor care at a snail’s pace to those who have served in the military. One head of the department has already been fired and Congress has been investigating the matter for the past few years.

“I am disappointed that Secretary McDonald would make such a comment, especially when VA wait times have reportedly resulted in veteran deaths,” Shelby said.

According to the Washington Examiner, The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report in April revealing that the current metric used to count a veterans’ wait time is called the “preferred date.” This way of calculation does not begin from the time a veteran first calls to make a medical appointment.

For veterans in Alabama, those seeking care often face some of the longest wait times in the nation. The Tuskegee and Montgomery VA hospitals, known as the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS) had the worst marks for reaching its goals for timely access to care of any VA hospital in the country between September 2014 and February 2015, and 9 percent of patient visits involved a wait time of longer than 30 days.

In 2014, the CAVHCS’s director was fired after it was discovered that he was alerted to the discrepancies between reported and actual wait times 8 months before any action was taken; an employee took a veteran receiving treatment for drug addiction to a crack house to buy drugs and solicit a prostitute; and racked up millions of dollars in unpaid bills while veterans waited for care.

“I remain concerned with the serious allegations against the Department of Veterans Affairs.” Shelby concluded in his post. “Our veterans risked their lives to protect our freedom, and they have earned the benefit of receiving timely care.”