Veterans Health Administration (VHA) policy requires that all first–time patients who request mental health services receive an initial evaluation within 24 hours and a comprehensive diagnostic appointment within two weeks.
The Inspector General's office examined wait times at four facilities including the VA in Spokane. Investigators found that contrary to VHA officials' insistence, on average, veterans are waiting 41 days for care.
In Spokane the wait times were 80 days.
Patty Murray says that's unacceptable.
Murray: "We've got openings in Spokane today that need to be filled. I want to know why they haven't been filled and what they're doing to make sure that we get professionals there. Because without a doctor to see you, that means one more veteran who served his country or her country who's being left without the help and support we promised them when we sent them."
The report also criticized staff for not following proper scheduling procedures.
Murray: "It is unacceptable that anyone is being denied care for mental health for any reason, but these reasons are infuriating."
The IG's report was prepared at Murray's request. She's meeting with top VHA leaders this morning about the IG's findings.
The VA has recently hired 1,900 new mental health care providers to help meet demand.
Murray says she's calling on VHA leaders to overhaul the system from the top down.