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Patients experiencing interminable delays in scheduling appointments for care at the San Diego Veterans Administration hospital aren’t just imagining things. So concludes a health-care inspection report released last month by the VA’s inspector general. The investigation was launched after a desperate hospital outpatient wrote a letter to the chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee relating repeated failed attempts to get in to see a doctor. “The complainant is a veteran in his mid 20’s with diagnoses of cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder,” said the report, which went on to say that the man had been repeatedly stymied by the hospital’s phone scheduling system. “Specifically, he experienced long holding times (as much as 45 minutes), hang-ups, and the inability to leave messages due to the voice message box being full. From October 2007 through February 2008, scheduling call center data showed a call abandonment rate of more than 30 percent, while the goal is less than 10 percent. The scheduling call center manager acknowledged the problems.”

The hospital also suffered from inadequate staffing. “Several months ago, when the complainant was experiencing difficulties obtaining care, the primary care clinic’s nurse case manager position was vacant. We discussed the complainant’s situation with the attending physician, and a nurse case manager was assigned to him during our visit.” According to the report, the call center issues are being taken care of.

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Comments

downtowncharlie July 18, 2008 @ 1:12 p.m.

Editor, SD Reader: The telephone situation described in the Veterans' Hang-up is but a symptom of the many problems that plague our Veterans hospitals.

They are flooded with patients and the primary care staff are working under 'double-booking' cnditions. The staff are dedicated professionals, but the work load has increased dramaticaly.

A year or so ago, the U.S. News and World report noted that many disabled veterans disability claims are not adjucated according to Pentagon guidelines. They told of a disabled Marine veteran in Oceanside getting only $300.00 per month because they did not judge him fully disabled. The magazine concluded that the Pentagon was cutting veterans benefits to reduce the cost of the war in Iraq.

It's almost impossible to get an appointment with a dermatologist.

I respect and admiire the dedicated professionals who staff our Veterans hospital in La Jolla. They are simply over-worked. (please let me remain anonymous)

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realnews July 21, 2008 @ 6:47 p.m.

If this nation cared more about veterans and less about the money from oh, horse racing....or greed in other areas, then we would have a moral compass. But we don't. It's that simple. People in power sell out to lobbyists and so the America these poor guys served, doesn't even exist any longer. How sad is that?

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a2zresource Aug. 13, 2008 @ 3:44 p.m.

Most of my experiences at VA health care facilities have been positive. I was treated for a heart attack (several day's hospitalization), chronic hypertension, and a number of other, lesser medical conditions through the urgent care clinic.

I have not to the VA for medical care or follow-ups in years, but not because of poor service.

It's just that me having chest pain seems so damn insignificant when I know that in front of me in line, there are probably recent combat veterans who are missing limbs or needing treatment much more urgently than this old infantryman.

A man's got to have priorities, and if I can't get mine right, then nobody else will do it for me.

As for the phone system, I never had a problem renewing my VA prescriptions before...

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Fred Williams Aug. 14, 2008 @ 8:57 a.m.

A2Z, if you can afford other medical care, why are you using the VA at all?

I'm a veteran too. I don't take away resources from those with genuine combat injuries for my completely civilian ailments.

What are you thinking?

Buy some health insurance, and stop wasting the VA doctor's time on what is clearly NOT a military-related heart condition.

Thank you,

(formerly) Petty Officer Williams

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a2zresource Aug. 14, 2008 @ 9:43 a.m.

Regarding #4:

Since I can't afford other medical care, I use the VA... or at least I did use the VA as recently as 2007 for an urgent care foot injury. Otherwise, as I explained above, I just accept my pains as old age.

Part of the reason I am unemployed and unable to afford such luxuries is the thirty percent disability rating that the VA carries on its books, and I personally don't feel the need to challenge the wisdom of the board of physicians that awarded that rating, as the appeals process probably would take valuable resources away from other veterans with other service-connected disabilities. Besides that, there is a remote but real possibility that the rating could be set higher on appeal, not lower, triggering an entitlement for disability pay... and I'd rather not burden taxpayers for that one, unless the Right Honorable Reverend is seriously nominating me to receive phat government checks for the rest of my life... but hey, maybe then I could afford health care insurance! (On 35% disability pay? Right!!!)

Being subjected to friendly fire without taking the time to analyze the target makes me curious as to your naval training as a gun commander... ;-)

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