Long waiting lists at veterans hospitals have been an issue for some time, and now the numbers have grown 50 percent. The Department of Veterans Affairs is nearly $3 billion short, making it likely they will continue to fail veterans in terms of care.
Hiring cessations, rationing treatments, and even excluding certain patients (such as those who are terminally ill) are just some of the methods the department is considering in order to address funding. The debate is ongoing and increasingly negative.
The agency wants to petition Congress for program funding, but some Republicans object to doing so because that means veterans on waiting lists may use private care in rural areas, paid for by taxpayers.
The department has done what it can since the waiting list problem came to light. They have made more than 2.7 million more appointments, and authorized hundreds of thousands of people to seek outside care. They have doubled what they thought they would need to make things better.
“We are not meeting the needs of the veterans,” said Sloan D. Gibson, deputy secretary of the department, “and veterans are signaling that to us by coming in for additional care, and we can’t deliver it as timely as we want to.” The workload has still increased, something they could not anticipate.
Those workloads increased by 20 percent, according to the New York Times. That information includes people who had to schedule multiple appointments because veterans need more care now than they previously have.
Some claim that the lack of awareness on this issue has been the result of retaliations against whistleblowers and those who criticize the department. Other say it is a lack of staff, space, and funding since Vietnam, and now Iraq and Afghanistan. Whatever the reason, Gibson said, “Veterans are going to respond with increased demand, so get your checkbooks out.”