By The Associated Press
The Veterans Affairs Department says an audit of 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics found that more than 57,000 patients still are awaiting initial medical appointments 90 days or more after requesting them. An additional 64,000 who enrolled in the VA system over the past decade have never had appointments. The audit found that the VA's complicated appointment process created confusion among scheduling clerks and supervisors.
Here's a look at numbers in those categories for five VA sites in Illinois: Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital west of Chicago, Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago, VA Illiana Health Care System in Danville, Marion VA Medical Center and the Capt. James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago.
New patients who requested appointments in the past decade for whom an appointment had not been scheduled as of June 2: Hines 140, Jesse Brown 64, Danville 122, Marion 494, Lovell 53.
Patients still awaiting medical appointments 90 days or more after requesting them: None listed for Hines, Jesse Brown 1, Danville 19, Marion 3, Lovell 50.
Patients who waited more than 120 days for an appointment: None listed for any of the Illinois sites.
Total appointments scheduled, reflecting caseload: Hines 53,645, Jesse Brown 32,213, Danville 19,150, Marion 27,300, Lovell 10,688.
Average wait times for new patients seeking primary care: Danville 54.08 days, Jesse Brown 40.85, Marion 38.31, Hines 33.20, Lovell 15.46.
Average wait times for established patients seeking primary care: Marion 2.04 days, Lovell 1.66, Danville 1.47, Hines 1.22, Jesse Brown 0.75.
Average wait times for new patients seeking specialist care: Jesse Brown 53.69 days, Danville 52.14, Marion 51.53, Hines 45.95, Lovell 19.59.
Average wait times for established patients seeking specialist care: Lovell 2.58 days, Hines 2.30, Danville 1.80, Marion 1.71, Jesse Brown 0.82.
Average wait times for new patients seeking mental health treatment: Jesse Brown 42.77 days, Danville 35.64, Marion 28.20, Lovell 24.32, Hines 21.22.
Average wait times for established patients seeking mental health treatment: Lovell 2.53 days, Jesse Brown 2.27, Hines 1.5, Danville 1.06, Marion 0.90.
Maryville, Illinois Congressman John Shimkus, R, Illinois-15) said he has an open-door policy for Veterans Affairs employees and veterans in his district to contact his office to report any irregularities in VA scheduling procedures they may have seen.
"Today's release of the VA's Access Audit confirms that the problems with veterans getting timely service are even more widespread than previously revealed," Shimkus said. "My office has aided numerous veterans through the years who have experienced similar issues, and I encourage anyone currently in that situation - as well as VA employees - to share with me any knowledge of irregularities at the VA."
You can call Shimkus' office at 618-288-7190.