VA Evades Blame As More Failures Reported at Texas VA Offices

VA Evades Blame As More Failures Reported at Texas VA Offices

CONTACT: Michelle McCarthy (212) 982-9699 or michelle@iava.org


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

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VA Evades Blame As More Failures Reported at Texas VA Offices

At Congressional Hearing, VA Secretary Shinseki Skirts VA Reporting Errors

NEW YORK—Today, as the Houston Chronicle revealed a staggering claims backlog at the Houston and Waco VA Regional Offices, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, released the following statement in response to testimony by the Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs:



“Secretary Shinseki told Congress this week that the VA is currently stuck in a ‘react cycle’ when it comes to mental health care–but he failed to outline a plan to break that cycle. IAVA members expected to hear concrete specifics from him and his staff addressing the systemic failures recently exposed in the Inspector General’s report and at the Oakland VA. Instead, we heard excuses about budget issues, planning and changes in PTSD requirements. After ten years of war, new veterans and their families deserve answers and transparency. Cutting edge organizations in every sector are able to anticipate their growth needs and plan ahead. There is no excuse why the VA cannot do the same. The VA not only failed to meet standards of care, but it failed to accurately report metrics – how can Congress or other partners help the VA if its data can’t be trusted? IAVA members and veterans of all generations deserve action and accountability from the VA to deliver timely care and services in their toughest moments of need,” said IAVA Executive Director and Founder Paul Rieckhoff.



“The new revelations about Houston and Waco underscore that the VA is struggling to meet veterans’ needs. IAVA has heard from thousands of members seeking recourse for claim delays and lengthy wait times for mental health evaluations. No veteran brave enough to seek help for invisible wounds should have to wait two months for an evaluation. IAVA appreciates Secretary Shinseki’s service and personal commitment to make mental health care for veterans a top priority. IAVA shares that priority. But the VA needs to back that commitment with a proactive plan to become the 21st century VA that veterans deserve. That starts with VA accurately reporting successes and failures so that Congress and VSOs can collaborate to deliver the best care for our veterans and their families.”

On Wednesday, a Houston Chronicle investigation revealed that the backlog of disability claims at the Houston VA Regional office has more than doubled since 2009. Veterans must wait an average of 263 days for the office to process their claims. Meanwhile, more than 51,000 veterans face an average wait of 352 days for the Waco VA Regional Office to act on a claim. These new revelations follow an alarming report from the VA’s Inspector General which found that veterans’ wait times for mental health care far exceed that which the VA has previously reported and the VA’s mandates. According to the Inspector General’s findings, for veterans who did not receive evaluations within 14 days, the average wait for a first evaluation was 50 days—nearly two months.

To arrange an interview with IAVA Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff, Deputy Policy Director Tom Tarantino, or an IAVA Member Veteran impacted by wait times or delays at the Department of Veterans Affairs, please contact Michelle McCarthy, 212.982.9699, michelle@iava.org.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the country’s first and largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 200,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Its mission is to improve the lives of this country’s newest generation of veterans and their families.


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