Health & Science

Houston VA Says It Strives to Keep Wait Times to a Minimum

VA secretary orders nationwide audit after a San Antonio whistleblower report.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki says there will be a “face-to-face” audit of every VA clinic and hospital in the nation.

This comes after a whistleblower claimed that clerks at a VA clinic in San Antonio were ordered to manipulate scheduling information to make it appear there were no wait times for veterans receiving care.

Meanwhile, the Houston VA says it’s doing everything it can to keep wait times to a minimum.

It might be tempting to judge veterans’ medical appointments the way we would view departures for airlines – by looking at how many of them happened when they were supposed to. But quantifying VA wait times isn’t that simple.

“We don’t have an actual number, per se, for the entire medical center,” said Maureen Dyman, with the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston.

She says between the big hospital and nine outpatient clinics, the local VA handled more than a million appointments last year. 

“In certain areas, we have same-day access. In other areas, like specialty areas, maybe neurosurgery, it might take a little longer to get seen for care – much like in the private sector,” she said. 

Dyman says managers keep a close watch on how long veterans have to wait. 

“And we have morning reports for our leadership every day,” she said. “And they speak, every day, by clinic, what their access is. So, if we have a lot of patients waiting to be seen in our eye clinic, we’ll open evening clinics, open weekend clinics.”

Dyman says when a veteran can’t be seen in a timely manner, the VA will pay for the vet to be cared for at a private clinic or hospital. She says the system used to keep track of appointments and wait times is electronic, and difficult to manipulate to make those wait times look better than they actually are.

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David Pitman

Host, Morning Edition

Hi there. I’m glad you found me. Let me take a moment to answer some of the questions you might have about me and my job. I have worked as Morning Edition Host and reporter at News 88.7 since August of 2009. Previously, I hosted Morning Edition at WMFE in...

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