Federal Manager's Daily Report

The VA says primary care, dermatology and cardiology wait times were all shorter than in the private sector in 2017.

The VA has said it has substantially reduced wait times for patients in primary care and three specialty care services between 2014 and 2017, based on findings by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The JAMA found that average wait time in 2014 for a VA appointment in one of those specialties was 22.5 days, compared with 18.7 days for private-sector physicians. In 2017, though, the numbers were was 17.7 and 29.8 days, respectively.

“Primary care, dermatology and cardiology wait times were all shorter than in the private sector in 2017. While orthopedic wait times were longer for VA in both 2014 and 2017, they did decrease during the study period,” the VA said.

Patient wait times, and misleading data the VA had presented regarding them, were at the heart of the department’s scandals that resulted in several changes in law that strengthened management’s hand in discipline. Later more changes were enacted to strengthen protections for VA whistleblowers, after a surge in complaints from employees that they had been retaliated against for making disclosures or cooperating with investigations into the wait times.

Meanwhile, several laws were enacted to expand veterans’ access to private sector health care providers at VA expense under certain circumstances, which some unions and congressional Democrats have characterized as steps toward privatizing the VA.