Military Advantage

Is Fixing the VA Wait List Like Boxing a Glacier?


No. At least you can run away when boxing a glacier. As veterans, we are stuck with VA's problems, like the VA Wait List Scandal, which we now know spans at least two presidencies. Check out this VA Wait List memo that has largely been overlooked. It was written by the then VA Deputy Under Secretary of Health to address the potential scandal regarding the waiting list scheduling problems. It was written on February 1, 2002 and included on page 1 of the Electronic Wait List Users Manual. The memo stated:

“As you are aware, clinic-waiting times has become a high visibility issue with the Secretary’s office. We report data monthly during the Deputy Secretary’s Performance briefings. Current waiting time measures reflect the experience of veterans already ‘in the system’ and do not accurately portray waiting time experiences of new enrollees or patients without a scheduled appointment. Whether due to absence of appointments or other reasons, ad hoc ‘waiting lists’ of new veteran enrollees to be entered into the scheduling system are known to exist, and waiting times for new enrollees seeking care are anecdotally reported to be long. We will attempt to formalize an ‘electronic waiting list’ in VistA to more consistently and accurately reflect demand across VHA, and reduce the risk to enrollees lost to follow-up due to clerical error.“

[Read page 1 of the VA Wait List Manual here.]

Moving forward chronologically, the scope of the VA wait list problem was later confirmed by VA OIG in 2005. That information was then passed on to the Obama transition team in 2008. VA was cited as addressing it around 2010 in the VA 'gaming strategy' memo published by American Legion. This problem went on without any substantial improvement until CNN broke the story in 2014. That is one heck of a long chain of inaction. Judging from the language of the 2002 memo, it seems plausible to suggest the wait list problem probably predates even the Bush Administration. This means a person would have better luck boxing a glacier than changing VA procedures that harm veterans. The glaciers are, after all, melting at a quicker pace than VA has taken in ‘fixing’ this problem. So why are politicians and major media outlets hyping this up if they have known the truth all along? It is an election year.

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Voc Rehab Survival GuideBenjamin Krause is an award winning investigative journalist, attorney, and disabled veteran of the US Air Force, where he served in its Special Operations Command. He wrote his guide, the Voc Rehab Survival Guide for Veterans, after winning his long fight for benefits against VA to help other veterans do the same. Benjamin is a graduate of Northwestern University and the University of Minnesota Law School using VA Vocational Rehabilitation.

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