By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Monday, December 1 U.S. Representative Martha Roby responded to a recent report about recent wait times for veterans. Rep. Roby called the reported 67 day wait for mental health patients a, “Major public safety issue.”
According to the new report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs new veteran patients at Central Alabama Veterans Health Care Systems (CAVHCS) seeking mental health care must wait an average of 67 days, which has actually increased from the 56 day average reported in May.
Congresswoman Roby said in a written statement that such a digression represents a disservice to veterans and a serious public safety issue.
Representative Martha Roby said, “The latest data shows we still have a major problem with mental health services at the Central Alabama VA, and it is actually getting worse.” “I hope people understand how serious a problem it is for veterans in need of mental health care to have to wait more than two months for an appointment. That is obviously a disservice to veterans, but it is also a major public safety issue for Central Alabama. To think that a soldier returning from Afghanistan with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has to wait two months for an appointment to get care he needs and deserves – it’s a disgrace.”
The GOP Congresswoman said, “We know it’s going to take time to fully reform the VA, but we should not be moving in the wrong direction.”
Rep. Roby supports and has long been an advocate for more utilization of outside health providers to cut down on wait times at the VA. Rep. Roby said that the VA reform law passed this summer included specific requirements and funding for VA medical centers to refer patients to outside providers when demand exceeds capacity.
Rep. Roby said, “We passed a law that gave veteran patients forced to wait more than 30 days for an appointment guaranteed access to outside care. So, I want to know how many mental health patients CAVHCS has referred to outside providers in light of these numbers.”
According to the report, 91.58 percent of patients at the Birmingham VA were able to get an appointment within 30 days. That ranged from a low of 88.69 percent for Huntsville to a high of 99.23 percent in Rainbow City. The average wait time for an appointment for a new mental health patient in the Greater Birmingham VA area was 25 and a half days, with Florence being the worst at over 36 days and Bessemer being the best at just 9 days.
At CAVHCS however only 72.58 percent of the appointments were scheduled within 30 days of the request. Within CAVHCS, Columbus, GA and Tuskegee performed the worst with just 64.16 percentg and 68.82 percent. Monroe County performed the best with 249 out of 254 appointments occurring within 30 days. The average wait time for a new mental health patient seeking an appointment for a new patient was over 67 days. This varied from a worst of 81 and a half days for Columbus to a best of less than 17 days for the Wiregrass.
In Tuscaloosa, 90 percent of the appointments were scheduled within 30 days of the request and the average wait time for a new patient seeking a mental health appointment was just over 30 days.
To read the full report go here: http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/docs/pending_access_data_using_CD_and_DD_11202014.pdf