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VA May Get Audit After Official Testifies of Understaffing

The Department of Veterans Affairs‘ $5.7 billion-mental healthcare budget may be audited upon a Senate committee request after a recent testimony claiming that the department was not providing adequate care, according to a Washington Post report.

Wilmington VA Medical Center‘s director of post-traumatic stress disorder services, Michelle Washington, recently testified on behalf of the American Federation of Government Employees that facility managers are focused on ways to meet goal numbers instead of on providing necessary care, said the report.

The report indicated that Sen Patty Murray, (D-Wash.), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, asked the VA’s inspector general to examine this issue in a statement, emphasizing the necessity to, “meet the veteran’s desire for care with the immediate assurance that it will be provided — and provided quickly.”

Washington said that psychologists at the center have received orders to see four new patients a week in order to meet the agency’s goals. However, in Washington’s opinion, this has created a situation where new patient appointments take precedence over follow-up appointments, which has seemingly frustrated veterans seeking help.

The Post indicated that when Sen. Murray sent a letter regarding the allegations to Mary Schohn, director of mental health operations for the Veterans Health Administration, Schohn said the department is taking,”seriously this committee’s concerns regarding needed improvements.”

Washington pointed to short staffing as what is causing difficulty in booking patient appointments in a timely way. In a recent survey of 271 of VA mental health providers in August, some 40 percent said they found it difficult to schedule appointments within the departments set 14-day guideline.

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