Posted on May 30, 2014 at 4:24 PM
Saturday, May 31 at 6:12 AM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Word spread quickly to Charlotte-area veterans that the Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki had apologized for problems inside the VA and then submitted his resignation that was accepted by President Obama.
Chart: VA wait times across the country
Larry Davis, a vet who last served in Iraq, said, “I think it is appalling. It isn’t just him. It’s people under him. You can’t put it on one individual.
But other vets were angered that their counterparts in other areas of the country were suffering.
“It’s unacceptable. The veterans need to be able to get the care and treatment that they need, said Christopher Brooks.
At about the time Shinseki was resigning, Brooks was walking into the VA clinic in north Charlotte. He is new to the area from Miami and says the VA is in much better shape here.
“I’m actually getting more of a reception. I’m getting the facilities and the people to do things for me that I need,” Brooks said.
The most common complaint from local vets is the long drive to the VA Hospital in Salisbury but most agree the care they get in the area is adequate. According to data compiled by NBC Charlotte's news partner USA Today, Salisbury veterans wait an average of 23 days to be seen in the six-month period ending March 31.
The data shows 1,387 veterans of 4,481 of them who came for an appointment were seen in a 14-day period.
A new medical center is being built off of Tyvola Road in Charlotte and is expected to help provide more services vets need closer to home.
One thing all the vets agree on is that the country needs to do its part for them.
Jack Sexton, an Army vet said, “They put us out there and they trained us. We were there to do what we were supposed to do and somebody needs to take care of the people who didn’t do so well.”
The wait-time numbers, already grim, may grow far worse as the investigation into doctored wait times at Veterans Affairs hospitals continues. The data includes figures at hospitals and health care centers that investigators say falsified their figures to make them appear far better than they actually are.
Despite the potentially false figures included in the data obtained by USA Today, the numbers show that at many hospitals, veterans already are waiting weeks – sometimes months – for care. In Nashville, it takes more than two months for the average new patient to see a doctor. In Atlanta, Gainesville, Fla., and Portland, Ore., veterans are put on hold for more than 50 days.
Only 19 of the VA’s 140 health care facilities reported average wait times within the administration’s target range. Some – in Richmond, Va., Columbia, S.C. and Hampton, Va. – said fewer than 20% of new patients got in to see a doctor within that 14-day time frame.
The VA has confirmed that 42 facilities are under investigation for having falsified their wait records. It is unclear exactly which hospitals are being scrutinized, although investigators singled out some in a recent report.
According to an Office of Inspector General report, the Phoenix VA Health Care System showed patients waited 24 days in 2013, while in reality the actual delay averaged nearly four months. In the first six months of 2014, Phoenix reported average wait times of 22 days, according to the data released Friday – indicating that officials continued to conceal prolonged waits at the facility.
Numbers from other hospitals reveal a two-tiered system of care. Hawaii’s VA Pacific Islands Health Care System reported that 42% of its patients saw doctors within 14 days. But those who didn’t get seen quickly were left to linger: the average wait time for the rest was two and a half months.
-- Associated Press contributing.