IG: VA Cannot Accurately Determine If Its Patients Receive Timely Access To Mental Healthcare.

A new report on how long it takes Veterans Affairs to provide mental healthcare to vets who seek such care continues to generate extensive, somewhat negative coverage for the department.

The AP (4/25) reports, “Veterans are waiting an average of 80 days for mental health appointments at the Spokane VA Medical Center, far short of the 14-day goal set” by the US VA. Spokane “was one of four VA medical centers included in a review of mental health care access” by VA’s IG. The “report released Monday found that the average wait time for an appointment turned out to be 41 days.”

On its website, NPR (4/24, Abramson) published an online version of a story that will be broadcast on Wednesday’s “Morning Edition.” According to NPR, the IG’s “report says, rather than starting the clock from the moment a vet asks for mental health care, the VA has been counting from whenever the first appointment became available. That could add weeks or months to the wait time.” NPR adds, “At a Senate hearing Wednesday, the VA will have another chance to explain how it’s going” to improve its mental healthcare system.

According to CQ (4/25, Norman, Subscription Publication), the VHA assertion “that 95 percent of veterans who report mental health problems receive a full evaluation within 14 days has ‘no real value,’ with the reality being that veterans are waiting much longer for help, says a Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General’s report that will be explored” at a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Shinseki “said in a statement…that the department has expanded its mental health services to add marriage and family therapists as well as licensed professional mental health counselors.”

NYTimes Says VA Must Do More For Vets Who Need Mental Healthcare. In an editorial, the New York Times (4/25, A24, Subscription Publication) is fairly critical of Veterans Affairs, saying a new report indicates that VA must do more to help vets who seek mental healthcare offered by the department. The Times does add, however, that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki “has taken admirable steps to help veterans by expanding and improving programs to fight homelessness and provide more psychological care.” The Times urges “President Obama and Democratic leaders” in Congress to resist House Republicans who have “made a target of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which runs a housing-voucher program” with VA that has “saved many thousands of veterans from homelessness.”

Related Links:

— “VA Struggles To Provide Vets With Mental Health Care,”Larry Abramson , NPR, April 25, 2012.

Posted in In The News.