Local perspective on investigative report on VA scandal

By KBJR News 1

Credit: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Local perspective on investigative report on VA scandal

June 10, 2014 Updated Jun 10, 2014 at 1:05 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- An investigative report surrounding the Veterans Affairs (VA) scandal confirms a culture of twisting the rules to cover up how long some veterans had to wait to get care.

Investigators turned up delays and fake waiting lists throughout the 730 hospital VA system. One stat shows 57,000 vets were waiting for appointments after 90 days. 64,000 patients over the past ten years had never been seen.

“The Minneapolis VA data includes the medical center in Minneapolis, as well as nine clinics in Minnesota and four clinics in Wisconsin. The average time for a patient seeking primary care for the first time in this area is 28 days, and for the St. Cloud VA it’s 25 days according to a report that came out a couple of weeks ago," Ralph Heussner, Public Affairs Officer for Minneapolis VA data area, said.

"Today it is much shorter, primary care patients would be seen in about 14 days. In our Minneapolis VA data area mental health patients can be seen in less than a day, emergency patients can walk-in and be seen. The wait times are getting better,” Heussner added.

Compared to the 152 VA systems in the nation, the Minneapolis VA data area is considerably lower in our wait time according to audit data released this week.

“Twin Ports wait time has particularly dropped dramatically. As a client myself it’s as good as private care as far as getting in,” patient at the Twin Ports Community Based Out-Patient Clinic which only serves veterans, Andrew Meyer, said. “The wait time in Minnesota and Wisconsin is pretty responsive.”

The Assistant Deputy for Health Informatics and Analytics within the Department of VA was in Duluth this week and says the VA is dedicated to providing the best healthcare available.

“It's still an organization with a great mission. We're determined to regain the confidence of the Veterans and the general public. Our transparency, as our Secretary has,” Assistant Deputy for Health Informatics and Analytics, Gail Graham, said.

Sloan Gibson has been named the interim VA Secretary. Graham was the keynote speaker at a forum Monday for graduates of St. Scholastica's Health Information Management Masters Program.

Ramona Marozas