The Department of Veterans Affairs has greatly overstated how quickly it provides mental-health care for veterans, according to an inspector general’s report released Monday.
Contrary to VA claims that 95 percent of first-time patients seeking mental-health care in 2011 received an evaluation within the department’s goal of 14 days, just under half were seen in that time frame, the report found. A majority waited about 50 days on average for a full evaluation.
A similar claim that 95 percent of new patients in 2011 got appointments to begin treatment within 14 days of their desired date was also far off the mark; the report from the VA Office of Inspector General estimated that 64 percent of patients did; the rest waited on average 40 days.
The inflated claims, made in the VA’s fiscal 2011 performance and accountability report, come with the department facing growing demand for mental-health services, as thousands of veterans return from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sen. Patty Murray, (D-Wash.), who is chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Veterans Affairs and requested the investigation, said the report is “deeply disturbing and demands action from VA. This report shows the huge gulf between the time the VA says it takes to get veterans mental-health care and the reality of how long it actually takes veterans to get seen at facilities across the country.”
Delays in treatment for veterans seeking help for post-traumatic stress can be devastating, Murray said.
“Getting our veterans timely mental-health care can quite frankly often be the difference between life and death,” she said.