Seminole, Florida -- After hearing from more than 300 people at his veterans intake day this week, Congressman David Jolly (FL-13) is again calling for expanded healthcare choices for veterans to alleviate wait times at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare facilities.
Jolly has supported recent measures to loosen restrictions on the use of outside medical providers, but following his intake meetings called for more dramatic changes to ensure veterans have control of their medical provider decisions.
A survey taken by nearly 200 veterans at Tuesday's event revealed close to half (40%) had already requested at some point to be referred to a non-VA provider. Of those who had sought outside care, 48% rated that experience as either poor or very poor, indicating there's a strong reluctance on the part of the VA to send people to a non-VA provider.
"There is a strong interest on the part of local veterans to go outside the VA system for care. And if the VA cannot provide timely care at VA facilities, veterans should have expanded options to see private sector doctors and medical providers," Jolly said.
"At a time when we are hearing about wait times lasting months, we must eliminate barriers that prevent veterans from getting the care they deserve. The VA has made great strides in the last several weeks to clear the waitlist by using non-VA medical providers. But long-term reform must include statutory changes to fully put veterans in charge of their health care. Veterans deserve a choice. Plain and simple."
Jolly also noted a strong majority (68%) of veterans who completed the survey rated their local VA care as adequate or better. In fact, many veterans came to the intake with the sole purpose of complimenting the staff and administration at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center and the James A. Haley VA Medical Center.
"That doesn't surprise me," Jolly said. "We've heard for weeks from a number of veterans who say despite the ongoing scandal, they love the care they receive through the VA and that reflects the commitment of so many of the hardworking VA employees.
Nearly a third (31%) of local veterans who completed the survey said they had waited more than 45 days at some point to see a primary care physician. And many said they had recently been contacted by the VA to assist with getting them off the waitlist and into private sector healthcare.
"Addressing this scandal cannot just center around blame, rather it needs to spark a dialogue of ideas that leads to change - a continued dialogue and coordination between our veterans, the VA, and the Congress. Comprehensive reform must address the interest of our veterans first and foremost."
A total of 183 veterans filled out the survey.
From the day you first requested an apt, what is the longest period of time you had to wait to see a Primary Care Physician?
Less than 14 days
More than 45 Days
What is the longest period of time you had to wait for a specialist apt?
Less than 14 days
More than 90 days
Have you ever asked the VA to be referred to a non-VA provider?
How was that experience?
Overall, how would you rate your satisfaction with your VA care?