Alongside a bipartisan group of Senators, Senators Reverend Warnock and Ossoff urged Veterans Affairs (VA)Secretary Denis McDonough to answer for and address delayed wait times for veterans
Senator Reverend Warnock has long been a champion for veterans, including previously leading a bipartisan cohort of lawmakers to introduce the Major Richard Star Act that would expand access to benefits for the nation’s veterans
Senators Reverend Warnock, Ossoff: “Eligible veterans have earned timely, quality health care; These delays must be urgently addressed”
Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Jon Ossoff (D-GA) launched a bipartisan inquiry into delays veterans are facing between referral dates and scheduled medical appointments at Veterans Affairs (VA) community care locations in Georgia and nationwide. The bipartisan group of lawmakers are urging the VA to fully implement the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) recommendations to improve program timeliness and efficiency.
Since 2018, multiple GAO reports have recommended the VA ensure timely veteran medical care by establishing and analyzing feasible, discrete time standards. Of the six relevant GAO recommendations, VA has only fully implemented two.
“We receive frequent communications from our veteran constituents regarding lengthy wait times in both scheduling and receiving health care through community care providers,” the lawmakers wrote. “Eligible veterans have earned timely, quality health care; These delays must be urgently addressed.”
Senators Warnock and Ossoff are joined in this inquiry by Senators Rick Scott (R-FL), John Cornyn (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ted Budd (R-NC), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).
A stalwart champion for Georgia’s veterans, Senator Warnock has been active in Washington working to strengthen federal support for Georgia’s veterans. Senator Warnock successfully worked to pass legislation he introduced that will study disparities in access to VA benefits, as well as the Honoring Our PACT Act, legislation he supported that provides for the largest expansion of veterans’ health benefits in decades. In addition, Senator Warnock has introduced legislation to upgrade standards of care in veterans’ homes, legislation to bolster affordable military housing for servicemembers and their families, and legislation to provide combat-injured veterans with full earned disability compensation and retired pay. Lastly, Senator Warnock has continued to conduct oversight of the VA, including demanding action from the VA to address a mail pile-up at the Atlanta VA that persisted for over a year, and leading a group of lawmakers in urging the Department of Defense (DoD) to conduct continued oversight of privatized housing companies.
Read the bipartisan inquiry HERE and below.
Dear Secretary McDonough,
We write to highlight unacceptable delays faced by our veterans seeking health care via the VA’s community care program. We receive frequent communications from our veteran constituents regarding lengthy wait times in both scheduling and receiving health care through community care providers. Eligible veterans have earned timely, quality health care; These delays must be urgently addressed.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported several times on these challenges, making several recommendations to improve the community care program and VA scheduling process since at least 2018. Despite this, on November 10, 2023, GAO Health Care Director Sharon Silas reported that, “Most VAMCs did not meet the timeliness standard for scheduling community care appointments, and VHA’s analysis used to create this standard was limited.” Further, Ms. Silas reported that, “VHA has recently established a timeliness standard for VHA facility appointments, but not for community care,” and that “fully implementing our recommendations related to gaps in the appointment scheduling process—particularly establishing a standard for when community care appointments should occur—is important to ensuring that veterans have timely access to care.”
The GAO’s findings are consistent with what we have heard from our veteran constituents. Every month, our veterans contact us for assistance with scheduling appointments, with some waiting months for certain types of community care appointments. Veterans have also reported significant administrative delays that occur between referral to the community care program and the scheduling of an appointment.
Ongoing failure to make consistent improvements to community care wait times is unacceptable, and we are concerned that the lack of care time standards for community care only exacerbates the problem. Accordingly, we ask that you promptly respond to the following questions:
- Why do veterans continue to experience lengthy wait times to both schedule and receive care through the community care program?
- Why have the GAO’s recommendations regarding community care appointment scheduling and time standards not been fully implemented?
- What accountability measures are in place when consistent delays in veteran care occur?
- What actions is the Department of Veterans Affairs taking to improve community care wait times?
- What additional resources or authorities are needed (if any) from Congress to improve veteran community care wait times?
- Will you commit to establishing a meaningful target in the next 30 days for improving community care wait times between referral/file entry date and the scheduling of an appointment?
- Will you commit to establishing within the next 90 days an acceptable wait time standard for the interval between making an appointment and attending that appointment?
Providing timely, quality care for our veterans is paramount. No veteran should have to wait weeks or months for medical care. We thank you for your attention to this issue and look forward to your prompt response.
Title and affiliation are provided for identification purposes only. A pastor and social justice advocate, Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock was elected to the United States Senate in 2021 and reelected for a full term in 2022. The Senator serves on the Senate Agriculture, Banking, and Commerce committees, as well as the Senate Aging Committee.