A few months ago I had a new patient appointment with a civilian doctor. I called the doctor’s office on Wednesday and was seen the following Wednesday – the day I wanted to be seen. The new patient appointment process took seven days. I could have scheduled it sooner if needed.
As a veteran I am enrolled in the VA healthcare system, but I have never used it. Three or four years ago someone asked me why I did not go to the VA for my healthcare needs, and I said I did not want to wait weeks or months for an appointment.
So people being shocked that veterans have to wait a long time for appointments is a little amusing to me. They always have and under the present system they probably always will. Ask almost any veteran and they’ll tell you it takes a long time.
I am fortunate enough to have a choice, but here in Montana my fellow veterans have been waiting “an average of 48 days for their first appointment with a primary care doctor” at Fort Harrison Veterans Affairs Medical Center near Helena, Montana. Veterans in Hawaii, Texas, North Carolina, and Maryland wait for an average of 81 to 145 days according to this report from the Associated Press.
The VA conducted an audit on waiting times and scheduling practices at Veterans Health Administration facilities. According to KRTV in Great Falls, the facilities at Fort Harrison, Great Falls, and Billings were flagged for further review and investigation.
Of course, Montana’s congressional delegation is scurrying to help veterans, save face, and get votes. Messages are carefully crafted because of politics. Press releases are flying!