Some Tucson veterans forced to wait months for care at VA Hospital

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) – Veterans in Tucson and across the United States have been forced to wait months to receive care at VA hospitals. In some cases, veterans are paying for their own care.

It’s especially bad for new patients who are trying to get appointments.

Tucson actually has one of the best VA’s in the country, but even they are experiencing those long wait times.

″A few months ago, I had my first seizure in my life. I called the VA to try and set up a neurology appointment and it was three months after my seizure until I could be seen, so, for that whole entire three months, I was terrified that something would happen,” said veteran and pastor Jon McLane .

It’s the reality many veterans are facing. The current wait time for neurology in Tucson is about three months for new patients and 47 days for established patients.

McLane says he wasn’t told why the VA was experiencing long wait times. The VA and they cited a number of reasons including more veterans seeking care, staffing shortages, and the impact of COVID-19.

I asked VA administers what are the options for veterans waiting for care.

In a statement, they said, “Depending upon the availability of VA services, and the individual clinical need of a patient, Veterans do have the option to seek care in the community when VA cannot provide the care needed or the wait time for a specific one healthcare service exceeds the Veterans individual healthcare need or circumstance.”

″It was going to be four months until they could schedule me for an MRI, so they had seen me at a private hospital and then I ended up getting a bill in the mail following it,” McLane explained.

He said that’s something many veterans can’t afford. As the founder of Veteran Rescue Mission, he’s helped hundreds of homeless veterans. He’s concerned that these longer wait times could lead to an increase in veteran suicide.

″I’ve had to step in as their pseudo-children in a way and make these appointments, try to get them to these appointments, explain to them why they have to wait so long, deal with their frustration and find other options to deal with their aids in the meantime,” he said.

His advice for veterans is to check their availability at the VA and enrollment and to see where you stand. More than ever, he says it’s important to stay on top of healthcare and be diligent.

You can find VA wait times here by going to the ‘Facility Performance’ page.


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