Report Criticizes VA Effort To Provide Mental-Health Services To Veterans.

Monday’s release of a report on mental healthcare services at Veterans Affairs generated extensive, mainly negative coverage for the agency.

The AP (4/24) reports, “Federal investigators reported Monday that nearly half of the veterans who seek mental health care for the first time waited about 50 days before receiving a full evaluation, a much longer lag-time than cited” by Veterans Affairs. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is scheduled to discuss the inspector general’s report at a hearing on Wednesday. On Monday, the panel’s chair, US Sen. Patty Murray, said the report is “deeply disturbing and demands action from” VA.

USA Today (4/24, Zoroya) quotes from the report (pdf), which says that VA’s “mental health performance data is not accurate or reliable” and that VA has “overstated its success” in providing mental health services to vets. The agency “said it concurred with the investigation results and would move ‘rapidly’ to revamp its process for measuring delays.”

The New York Times (4/24, Dao) “At War” blog notes that VA’s “under secretary for health, Dr. Robert A. Petzel, said in a letter to the inspector general that the VA generally agreed with the recommendations and that it would initiate a timeliness review of its entire medical system, not just the four regions analyzed by the inspector general.” In a statement, VA “said that in addition to hiring new clinicians, it had taken several other measures to improve mental health services, including creating a new office to oversee its mental health programs.”

The Washington Post (4/24, Vogel) reports, “On Thursday, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced that the department will hire 1,900 mental health workers, an increase of more than 9 percent, an action taken based on a review of mental health operations that began in 2011. ‘We have made strong progress, but we need to do more,’ the VA said in a statement released Monday afternoon.”

Modern Healthcare (4/24, Barr, Subscription Publication) notes, “A number of problems exist with the Veterans Health Administration’s tracking and providing of mental-health services, a new report” from VA’s inspector general finds. The “report, which was requested by members of Congress and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, recommends an overhaul of the VHA measurement methods and an examination of whether staffing vacancies at the VHA played a role.”

Experience Of Killing In War Associated With Suicidal Thoughts. HealthDay (4/24, Preidt) reports, “The experience of killing in war is strongly linked with suicidal thoughts,” according to a study published online in the journal Depression and Anxiety. “Researchers analyzed data from a survey of a nationally representative sample of Vietnam War veterans and found that those with more killing experiences were twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts as those with fewer or no experiences of killing.”

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— “Mental health help for vets untimely,”Gregg Zoroya , USA Today, April 24, 2012.

Posted in In The News.