Phoenix/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on April 12, 2024
Phoenix VA Hospital's Wait-Time Woes Continue a Decade After Scandal Despite Reform EffortsSource: Google Street View

A decade has passed, but the shadow of a national scandal continues to linger over the Phoenix VA Hospital. Activists and veterans rallied on April 9th, marking the 10-year anniversary of a healthcare crisis that once rocked the nation. Despite efforts to reform, reported wait times remain objectionable, with advocacy groups voicing fervent calls for change. According to an ABC 15 investigation, Phoenix VA's wait-time woes persist, with average wait times for new patients at mental health facilities exceeding the VA's own standard of 20 days.

The problem, critics say, is not new. In 2014, whistle-blowers within the Phoenix system brought to light grievous manipulations of wait-time data, leading to veterans' deaths. Paula Pedene, an Air Force veteran, and original whistleblower said, "Unfortunately, the V.A. has ignored the V.A. Mission Act. Congress doesn’t have the wherewithal, to uphold the law. They are not holding the V.A.’s feet to the fire," as relayed by a 12 News report. In reaction, wait times for appointments span from modest improvements at select facilities, to unacceptably long periods that question the efficacy of past reforms and current measures.

Several laws and initiatives, such as the 2018 V.A. Mission Act, sought to eradicate such delays by granting veterans the choice to seek care outside the federal system. However, new patients at the Carl T. Hayden VA Hospital in central Phoenix are reported facing an average wait of 42 days for oncology appointments, which stands starkly in contrast to the VA’s 28-day standard. Darin Selnick of Concerned Veterans for America emphasized the critical nature of these delays stating to ABC 15, "Anyone who has cancer tells you every day could be the difference between being seen and treated for that surgery, between life and death."

Efforts to provide transparency and expand options appear ongoing. The Phoenix VA has added six new clinics and increased its number of doctors by 40% since 2014, a step that ostensibly signals progress. Bobbi Gruner, a spokesperson for the V.A., claimed, “Over the past 10 years, VA has worked tirelessly, to improve access to care and quality of care to regain the trust of veterans," as per 12 News. Advocates, however, remain skeptical, with veterans like Steve Cooper, who sued the Phoenix VA for medical negligence, calling for a transition to private sector providers for veteran care.