A major development has come about in the growing scandal over care for veterans. The Kansas City VA Medical Center confirms it kept a secret waiting list of veterans.
Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican out of Missouri, revealed the existence of the unauthorized secret waiting list that "placed veterans at risk" Thursday. The day before, the director of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs services in Missouri and Kansas confirmed the existence of a secret list at the center in Wichita, KS, and one other location.
One week ago Blunt came to town and said there was room for improvement inside the VA, but he stopped short of criticizing the Kansas City facility directly. Thursday, he spoke out against the so-called unauthorized waiting list, which in some cases delayed treatment for veterans for about 90 days.
Thursday afternoon Blunt said on Twitter "The Kansas City #VA Medical Center has admitted to me they have an "unauthorized" wait list http://t.co/rMCH1qB3G7 #VAaccountability."
Shortly after that tweet Blunt said in a statement "these so-called unauthorized wait lists are simply unacceptable and will not be tolerated. I'm going to do everything I can to be sure this stop immediately. Our veterans should not be forced to wait for care."
Last week, KCTV5's Dave Jordan spoke with Blunt and asked him about the wait lists and scheduling issues within VA hospitals.
"The scheduling issues are a challenge and we need to set goals and meet those goals and if you're not meeting those goals figure out why," he said at that time.
Sgt. Jim Lilleston spent 24 years as a flight engineer in the Army. He's listed as 70 percent disabled and gets his primary care from the Kansas City VA.
"I've had good care down there, even as far as the PTSD goes. But it does take a long time to get your appointment to see your providers," Lilleston said.
He said he has waited as long as 60 days for an appointment, which he now considers the new normal. But he says that needs to change.
"Our guys should be top priority and if we can't get into the VA, we should be able to go to a private practice outside of that," Lilleston said.
Lilleston said the VA needs an overhaul.
"There just needs to be a whole revamp of the whole system as far as patient care," he said.
KCTV5 reached out to the local VA for comment. In a written statement sent out Friday they said:
"Over the last two days, the leadership of the Kansas City VA Medical Center has met separately with both Congressman Cleaver and Senator Pat Roberts to report on Veteran access and address concerns raised recently in the media. They were briefed on the extensive efforts made by the Kansas City VA Medical Center staff to provide timely and high quality care."
"Specifically, Congressman Cleaver and Senator Roberts were briefed on the erroneous reports of a "secret wait list" at the Kansas City VA Medical Center. The incident reported involves a situation in which Veteran appointments were delayed in being scheduled for a return visit due to a serious clerical mistake. All of these Veterans were established patients already receiving care at the Kansas City VA Medical Center and this in no way reflects a list of Veterans being denied care due to a lack of capacity."
"In addition, they were briefed on reports of twelve Veterans who are waiting more than 90 days for a primary care appointment. Five of these individuals are Veterans already receiving primary care, but were awaiting acupuncture. Appointments were either moved forward for these individuals or the acupuncture care moved into the community. The remainder of the individuals represent scheduling errors, Veterans who wished to have a date beyond 90 days, or individuals who are not seeking primary care."
"The Kansas City VA is responsible for the care of approximately 48, 000 Veterans in the Kansas City area. It is a tertiary care center able to provide the full range of medical services from complex neurosurgery to long term housing for homeless Veterans. It is a long established process of the facility to regularly review access to the many different levels of care offered. When there are concerns of demand exceeding capacity, then the facility will make adjustments by either adding capacity or sending the care into the community. Our mission is to serve our Veterans and the approximately 1500 staff at the facility are joined in this singular purpose each day as they proudly serve our Nation's Heroes."
Blunt said he supports the idea that veterans should have more flexibility in how or where they receive care. This news comes on the day a bipartisan compromise was reached in the Senate which would allow vets to get care through other hospitals outside of the VA, but at no cost to them. There's no word on how close that is to actually becoming law.
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