Vouchers and wait times from VA create more problems for vets
POSTED: Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 6:51pm
UPDATED: Friday, June 13, 2014 - 10:21am
HARLINGEN, TX (KVEO NEWSCENTER 23) — It's come to light that Harlingen's VA clinic could have some of the longest wait times in the country.
Hugo Martinez, VA Public Affairs Officer, "Before this became a national issue, in listening to our veterans, we were learning that we had some issues with our scheduling."
Scheduling issues due to poor training, lack of staff, and high number of patients. These are the three top answers to wait times in the recent VA scheduling scandal in Harlingen. Hugo Martinez, the VA Public Affairs Officer, says they offer vouchers allowing patients to seek community care.
Martinez, "Any authorized care that we allow our patients to go see a provider in the community, we pay for it completely."
The solution to the problem seems to be practical in theory, give the patients vouchers, have them seek care elsewhere, and then have the VA pay the bill. However, one veteran has been struggling with the voucher system.
Fred Rendon, Veteran, "Very few doctors will deal with the VA. There are no more dentists here in town that will take VA vouchers, because the VA vouchers, they don't pay, it takes them two months, three months, a year to pay. And when they pay, they pay whatever they feel like paying."
One clinic declined to be on camera but reported that they are no longer accepting VA vouchers. When I asked why, they answered, "Simple, we don't get paid from the VA." And reported that they even have outstanding debt from these vouchers dating back to 2012.
Congressional Candidate Larry Smith says that the VA vouchers fail due to extended payback time for the clinic, lowered cap that they VA needs to pay, and leaving the doctors with the bill.
Larry Smith, Congressional Candidate, "A few days ago, the US House actually passed a bill to basically say that we need to ensure that the vouchers get to the doctors. Getting vouchers to the doctors was never the problem, you could give out vouchers all day long. It's those doctors actually getting reimbursed with those vouchers that's the issue. The voucher system is a broke system."
Martinez reports that the VA had 1068 patients who had been waiting longer than 90 days for specialist treatment.
Of those, 141 took vouchers to other clinics.