Tampa Bay veterans claim VA ignores cancellations, uses old metrics for wait times

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The wait time for an appointment that is cancelled by a Veterans Affairs facility is not added to the patient’s total wait time, according to a veteran advocacy group.

Concerned Veterans for America believes a new controversy is brewing, similar to the Phoenix VA scandal that prompted Congress to enact a 2014 law that gave veterans a choice to go outside the VA in certain situations.

The VA Mission Act enhanced Community Care starting in June 2019 to allow outside treatment for wait times of longer than 20 days for primary, mental and extended care, and 28 days for specialty care. The new regulations also allow Community Care when a veteran has to travel more than 30 minutes for the former and 60 for the latter.

Jimmie Smith, the coalition director for Concerned Veterans for America’s Florida chapter, pointed out the VA’s “pending appointment” link includes only data for the outdated 30-day requirement.

The VA’s current “pending appointment” link reflects the outdated 30-day requirement and indicates the clock starts on the “preferred date,” defined as the day “deemed clinically appropriate by a VA health care provider.” The Mission Act changed the regulation to start the wait time count from the date the patient requested the appointment.

According to Smith, a former Florida state representative, cancelled appointments are not factored into wait times.

“Once you cancel an appointment, the time and the clock starts all over again,” Smith said. “And it raises the concerns we are potentially leading to another Phoenix-style situation.”

More than 200 veterans across the country died waiting for appointments in the 2014 wait list scandal that was first uncovered in the Phoenix VA system.

Public Affairs Officers for the Bay Pines and Haley VA systems referred requests for data about local wait times and Community Care participation to their Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) officers. A request was filed by 8 On Your Side on Feb. 25.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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