12.19.18

Gardner, Bennet Demand Immediate Action Be Taken on Veterans Affairs Wait Times

Washington, DC – Colorado U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R) and Michael Bennet (D) today sent a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie demanding action be taken immediately to remedy wait times at Veterans Affairs Eastern Colorado Health Care System (ECHCS) facilities. The senators requested a report on how the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will use existing and new authorities to address these unacceptable wait times.

“The troubling November 2018 numbers demonstrate that the VA needs to prioritize solutions for Colorado veterans,” the Senators wrote. “As such, as MISSION is implemented, we request a report on how the VA intends to use existing authorities, as well as the new flexibility and tools provided in the MISSION Act, to expeditiously fix issues with wait times across ECHCS.”

NOTE: View the letter here.

The letter reads in full

Dear Secretary Wilkie,

We write today to demand immediate action on unacceptable wait times at VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System facilities.

For the period ending on December 1, 2018, VA data show that 16.65 percent of medical appointments scheduled through the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System (ECHCS) have a wait time of over 30 days. These wait times are the worst in the nation. This includes 7,374 belated appointments at the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center, 1,201 at the PFC James Dunn Clinic in Pueblo, and 7,014 at the PFC Floyd K. Lindstrom Outpatient Clinic at Colorado Springs. 

The latest numbers are even worse than the 13.5 percent of over 30-day appointments that the Denver Post cited in a July 2017 article on ECHCS wait times. Unacceptably high rates persist after years of congressional action, an alarming inspector general report, and a $1.73 billion new facility designed to improve access to care across the Rocky Mountain region.  The wait time issue is a disservice to Colorado veterans.

With the passage of the VA Maintaining Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act in June 2018, Congress acted, with our support, to enhance the health care experience for our nation’s veterans. This bipartisan legislation provides new capabilities to the VA with the goal of improving the timeliness of veterans’ access to health care. 

The troubling November 2018 numbers demonstrate that the VA needs to prioritize solutions for Colorado veterans. As such, as MISSION is implemented, we request a report on how the VA intends to use existing authorities, as well as the new flexibility and tools provided in the MISSION Act, to expeditiously fix issues with wait times across ECHCS.

 

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