VA Misled Public about Timeliness of Mental Health Care

Thursday, May 03, 2012
Officials in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) have been touting their agency’s timely delivery of mental health services to veterans. It turns out those claims were greatly exaggerated.
According to the VHA, 95% of first-time mental-health patients last year were evaluated within 14 days (the agency’s goal). But the VHA’s inspector general found the rate was actually less than 50%, and most patients waited about 50 days on average for a full evaluation.
The VHA also lied when it said 95% of new patients in 2011 received appointments to begin treatment within 14 days. The real number, according to the IG, was more like 64%. And the remainder of patients waited on average 40 days.
The VA’s defense is that it is overwhelmed by the increase of veterans requiring mental health services as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Between 2005 and 2010, the VHA increased staff by 45% and treated 39% more patients. In addition, two weeks ago it announced that it would hire an additional 1,900 mental health workers.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
To Learn More:
Review of Veterans’ Access to Mental Health Care (Veterans Health Administration Inspector General) (pdf)

Appeals Court Blasts VA for Mental Health “Incompetence” (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov) 


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