VA Acting Secretary Gibson promises immediate action to improve - - Columbia, South Carolina

VA Acting Secretary Gibson promises immediate action to improve access to care at Dorn VA

Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson

Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson announced Wednesday additional actions to improve veterans' access to care at the William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center.

"No veteran should have to wait for the care and services that they have earned and deserve," Gibson said. "The audit and the data we released last week showed the extent of the problems we face across the country and here in Columbia, South Carolina. We have been in the midst of our accelerated access to care initiative. It was focused on Veterans who have waited the longest for care."

Among those actions, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, are 1,700 newly created appointment slots in July and Augusta to accelerate access by expanding hours and increasing overtime, adding evenings and weekend hours. The VA also announced night and weekend appointments have been added for the rehabilitation clinic, Saturday appointments added for primary care and dental along with added hours for new optometry and orthopedics patients.

For years, the VA has been plagued by extreme wait times, what Gibson calls a lack of accountability, and frustration from veterans who need medical care.

"We are fully committed to fixing these problems and understand that we must restore the public's trust in the VA," Gibson said. "More importantly, we must restore the trust of our Veterans who depend on us for care."

Extreme waits are just one of the problems veterans who are on disability have.

Retired Army Medic Jason Austin has waited almost a year for his electronic claim to go through.

"All they tell me is it's still in the developmental stage," Austin said.

Since Austin's report aired on WIS, other emails from veterans have said the same thing.

"One of the employees raised their hand and said you know, oftentimes veterans call and want information, I'm looking at the information right on the screen, and the policy requires the veteran write us a letter requesting the information," Gibson said.

Despite what appears to be an up tick in backlogged claims and appeals on the VA website, Gibson said the agency is improving.

"We are absolutely on track to eliminate the disability backlog by 2015," Gibson said.

But as for a permanent solution to the long waits with no information that solution may take some time.

"That's policy getting in the way of us and the veteran," Gibson said. "And 9 times out of 10, I find that policy is self-inflicted and is not part of our statute."

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