67 Vets Waiting for 1st Appointments In New Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -

A new audit of Veterans Affairs health care facilities released Monday found 67 veterans have been waiting up to three months for their initial appointments with the New Jersey Health Care System.

The report also found that 402 veterans who enrolled in the VA in the last decade and requested appointments were never seen by a doctor as of a May 15 snapshot.

The audit is the first nationwide look at the VA network in the uproar that began with reports two months ago of patients dying while awaiting appointments and of cover-ups at the Phoenix VA center. A preliminary audit last month found that long patient waits and falsified records were “systemic” throughout the VA medical network.

The VA’s New Jersey Health Care System operates two hospitals and several clinics, mostly in northern Jersey. Southern Jersey’s clinics are part of the Philadelphia operation. Auditors visited clinics across the state and said the hospital in Lyons is one of 81 across the country that require further review of wait times.

The New Jersey Health Care system’s average wait time for new patients to get appointments was 25 days, but existing patients were seen within one day, on average, of when they wanted their appointments to be.

The wait was longest for new patients seeking to see specialists — 47 days. For existing patients, it took 4 days to see a specialist.

Ninety-seven percent of patients were able to get appointments within 30 days, a rate similar to the national figure of 96 percent.

The report found that the 14-day goal is “not attainable.”

In New York, nine veterans’ medical centers were scheduling 95 percent or more of their patients for appointments within 30 days, though hundreds were waiting longer at each facility. At least 91 percent of their patients would see practitioners within 14 days.

Nearly 300,000 appointments were scheduled at the nine New York centers. Those based in the Bronx and the Hudson Valley, as well as Brooklyn and Manhattan, scheduled all but 1 percent of their patients within 30 days, the report said.

The lowest rate for appointments within 30 days was 95 percent, reported for medical centers in Syracuse and at Bath in the Southern Tier.