Lebanon VA says it's fixed problem identified in audit

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Jun 10, 2014 4:00 AM

(Harrisburg) -- An audit from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs calls for another look at the Lebanon VA Medical Center. But the facility says staff has already fixed the problem.

The Lebanon VA admits it kept an unofficial list of follow-up appointments for cardiology patients, but says it was only because of changing schedules of "fellows" in the department.

Spokesman Doug Etter says it stopped using the list as soon as auditors pointed it out. He says it was difficult to balance appointments with staffing of "fellows", who help out for six months. 

John Getz is the adjutant quartermaster for the Pennsylvania Veterans of Foreign Wars, and uses the Lebanon VA.

He says it's often the first appointment that's the real issue.

"What I saw in the past, and many, many times in the past, I don't know if it's still going on, but in the beginning, some veterans get discouraged because there's so much red tape to finally get into the system. But after you get into that system, they're in good shape."

On average, it takes 24 days for a new patient to see a primary care doctor at the Lebanon VA, and about twice that for a specialist.

"And even the older veterans that are out there right now, your Vietnam veterans, your World War II veterans. They need help. You need to get them in there, get them in the system, get them help. We do this all the time. [Congresspeople] don't listen. Make it simple," says Getz.

Pittsburgh's VA had the longest wait time of facilities in the state, about 60 days.

The nationwide audit comes after revelations about veterans dying waiting for care, waiting lists that aren't on the books, and long delays at several facilities.

What has your experience been with the VA?

As many as 40 veterans died waiting for treatment on a waiting list in Arizona, but more than two dozen are also under investigation for having secret waiting lists (one of those is reportedly in Pennsylvania).

Problems at the VA aren't new, as the Inspector General has issued 18 reports on wait times since just 2005. 

Yet veterans rate the VA's care, and benefits, highly. This is where you come in. For an upcoming story as part of WITF's Transforming Health, I want to hear what kind of experience you have had with the VA. Have you had to wait a long time? Have you been very happy with the care you got? What other parts of this story should be covered? 

Please click here to reply.

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