The Department of Veterans Affairs has found itself embroiled in a nationwide scandal at several of its facilities. Cover-ups aimed at showing that facilities were conforming with VA regulations, while they were, in fact, delaying care for servicemen and women.
Now, the administration has decided that it will slowly allow service members to access medical care at private facilities around the country. The federal administration made the decision to allow more veterans to seek medical treatment or care at private hospitals because this will help take some of the pressure and strain off Veterans Affairs facilities across the country that are struggling to cope with a continuing stream of patients. It is not just veterans returning from the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have to wait for weeks and even months for an appointment. Even veterans of earlier wars requiring medical treatment have to deal with long wait times. As these veterans get older, their need for medical treatment only becomes greater.
The Veterans Affairs scandal broke recently after whistle blowers alleged that as many as 40 service members died due to delayed medical care at a VA facility in Phoenix. These were servicemen and women who waited for appointments and medical care that never came their way. Simultaneously, staff maintained a secret wait list at the facility that was designed to show that the hospital was conforming to federal guidelines for timely care for veterans. Such falsification of records has now been found to exist not just at the Phoenix facility, but at other VA facilities across the country.
Delays in medical appointments for treatment simply lead to delayed diagnosis of a condition. By the time a patient receives a medical appointment and consults with a doctor, symptoms of the condition may worsen. Immediate diagnosis is absolutely critical in cases of diseases like cancer, congestive heart failure, or stroke. Misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis or wrong diagnosis can lead to worsening of the symptoms, making the disease progressively worse, until it actually becomes incurable.
It’s hard to tell exactly how many veterans around the country have died simply because of delayed care like this. It is clear that the federal administration must take more stringent action and not just half-hearted measures to improve veterans’ access to immediate medical care.