Wait times for community care

Despite the amount of attention paid to it over the years, the Department of Veterans Affairs still struggles with wait times for medical appointments. Wait time eligibility becomes crucial when a veteran seeks medical care through Community Care. With the wrong wait time, the veteran can be denied treatment out in the community. The calculation of wait times has to be exact, either 20 or 28 days depending on the type of care.

If you are a VA staffer in charge of making Community Care medical appointments for a veteran patient, which of the following options do you choose in setting the appointment for a patient and starting the wait time clock? The date the provider wants the patient to be seen ... the date the patient wants to be seen ... the date the care provider or the veteran makes a request for an appointment?

Only one of those is correct. The correct answer is that the starting date for calculating wait time is that moment when a care provider or veteran asks for an appointment.

Unfortunately, in one location, staff was using a combination of methods for calculating wait times using their own unauthorized wait time calculator they created from an online app. It threw off the numbers by 12 days, making it look like veterans were not eligible for Community Care.

The ongoing mistake only came to light when a trainer used that same calculator in another facility. At the same time, a veteran had been denied Community Care because the inaccurate calculations indicated that he was not wait-time eligible and he was given a VA facility appointment instead. As a result, there was a congressional inquiry.

The Office of Inspector General for the VA stepped in and discovered a great big mess of confusion and inconsistency at both facilities due to staffers using a calculator that a member of staff had made.

If you want Community Care, you need VA approval first. To see if you qualify, read the fine print at www.va.gov/CommunityCare.

(c) 2023 King Features Synd., Inc.