Veterans’ centers appointment waits are unacceptable

Veterans’ centers have been the subject of a lot of negative press lately, with delayed care for vets a serious problem nationwide. Unfortunately, a recently released federal audit showed Michigan’s five medical centers wait three to four weeks on average before getting an appointment.

The Department of Veterans Affairs set a target of 14 days in 2011, which it says isn’t realistic because of the increasing demand for services. However, a wait of any length might not be helpful for veterans who really need the help now.

Michigan facilities, though, perform better than the worst performers nationwide, where average waits can take months.

The audit shows 1,555 Michigan vets have waited more than three months for appointments at the VA center, and 1,686 who signed up for care within the past decade still have not seen a physician or other professional.

Think about it: If you called for an appointment today, it could be September before you’d actually meet with someone face to face.

That’s unacceptable.

According to the report, facilities in Ann Arbor, Muskegon and Lansing required further review, although no details were given.

A spokesman for the Ann Arbor system said it will cooperate with the audit team to address issues. Of course, that’s what many people say – and while some follow through with that promise, others don’t.

It’s good that the results, although discouraging, have been brought to light and hopefully open to scrutiny. Legislators, VA staff and the public need to keep monitoring the situation so vets don’t have to wait weeks or months for care.

After all, veterans paid their dues by serving their country, and although overly long waits probably aren’t good for most people, it’s particularly disheartening when someone who has put his or her life on the line has this obstacle.