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Locals residents attest to long waits at Montgomery VA

Published 9:03am Wednesday, June 11, 2014

When news of the audit revealing that more than 57,000 veterans have waited more than 90 days for their first appointment with their local VA, it didn’t seem to surprise Elmore County residents.

Some even commented on The Wetumpka Herald’s Facebook page that waits have been even longer for their loved ones at the Central Alabama VA Hospital in Montgomery.

The audit comes on the heels of numerous complaints from veterans and their families about subpar care and the fact that reported wait times to see doctors have been fabricated by VA staff members.

That sentiment seems to be the same when referencing the VA in Montgomery.

“I have been going to the VA since 2009 and it seems to get worse and worse,” wrote Rebecca Bohannon, who is an Air Force veteran living in Wetumpka. “I had a doctor schedule me for a MRI three months ago and still haven’t been notified when that appointment will be confirmed.”

According to the nationwide audit, the Central Alabama VA is among the worst in the nation when it comes to wait time for veterans to see a doctor for the first time.

The average wait time is 75 days. The longest wait time is in Honolulu where the wait time average is 145 days.

The VA in Montgomery also ranks among the top 10 longest waits for mental heath care for new patients.  New patients wait an average of 57 days before seeing a doctor.

Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) said she was assured by Central Alabama VA Director James Talton that those staff members who fabricated wait times were no longer with the

hospital.

“He told me action had been taken to terminate those responsible for the wrongdoing,” Roby said. “If true, that’s a positive development. Right now my office is trying to follow up on exactly who got fired and when. Anybody found to have mistreated veterans, altered a wait list, or been complicit with such behavior should be immediately terminated and possibly prosecuted.”

The subpar care isn’t just for first-time patients. Current patients in the River Region have complained about long wait times between appointments.

“I went into the dental clinic as a walk-in about three weeks ago because I had two fillings come out from when I was a kid,” wrote Army veteran Chris Smith of Montgomery. “…I sat for three hours and they get everything ready to fix my fillings and then … oh wait we can’t find any of the drill bits needed to clean out and file the tooth down to prepare for the filling material. So they tell me to go up front and make another appointment. This was the second week of May and my appointment isn’t until the middle of September.”

Further in the audit, 13 percent of the schedulers of the 731 VA medical centers in the U.S. indicate they were told to falsify records to indicate shorter wait times.

“It’s time to stop talking about ways to fix the problems and start taking action,” Roby added. “I have long advocated for utilizing the many great doctors and hospitals in our communities to get veterans the care they need right away.”

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