Hawaii has longest wait for new veteran patients

Published On: Jun 09 2014 09:50:26 AM HST
Updated On: Jun 09 2014 02:11:53 PM HST

Spark M. Matsunaga VA Medical Center

HONOLULU -

Hawaii has the longest wait time in the nation for veterans to get their first appointment with a primary care physician.

Data on wait times nationwide was released Monday by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Click here to read the audit reports.

The data says new patients in Hawaii wait an average of 145 days to get an appointment at the Spark M. Matsunaga VA Medical Center.

Representatives at the Spark M. Matsunaga VA Medical Center did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wait times at the center are better for established patients.

Excluding new patients, just 3 percent of Hawaii veterans waited more than 30 days for an appointment.

Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson says the VA has contacted 50,000 veterans across the country to get them off of wait lists.

"These long wait times for new patients at Honolulu’s Spark M. Matsunaga VA Medical Center are extremely troubling. The medical center faces challenges involving neighbor island transportation and access, but these should not be excuses," said Sen. Mazie Hirono.

Hirono says her office reached out to the VA Inspector General's Office asking for an impartial review and verification of wait time data for Hawaii-based VA medical clinics and centers.

Click here to download Hirono's letter to the VA Inspector General's Office.

"The audit released by VA today makes clear that we need to get to bottom of what is going on in the VA system in order to take appropriate action. I will also introduce bipartisan legislation this week to provide immediate relief for waiting veterans who require emergency procedures," said Hirono.

"The results of the VA audit in Honolulu are infuriating, and deeply disappointing. Our Hawai'i veterans deserve better than to wait 145 days for a simple primary care visit,"said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. 

Last week, the Congresswoman Gabbard said she traveled across Hawaii and heard from veterans from every conflict since World War II.  She said some came with tears running down their face as they begged for someone to help them.

"It makes me sick knowing that our returned warriors are subject to begging for care when they come home.  The time for immediate action has come and gone. There are over 100,000 veterans across the country who have been waiting 90 days or more for their very first appointment. Our veterans should not have to wait another day to get the care they have earned and deserve. They must not be told to wait for the VA to be fixed," said Gabbard.  "Once again, I call on President Obama to use his executive authority now to address this crisis, and immediately enable veterans to access care within the private healthcare system using their VA identification card."

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