NM vets speak out about VA problems

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – New Mexico veterans, who have been wrapped up in long-waits for health care at the Albuquerque VA, got a chance to talk about how the problem has affected them Friday.

Congressman Steve Pierce, state veterans affairs representatives and a handful of veterans met with the Albuquerque VA Friday morning. The group met in an attempt to figure out the next steps in fixing the state’s share of the national problem with long waits at the VA.

An internal audit released this week found the Albuquerque VA hospital has been making new veteran patients wait for up to 45-days to see a doctor. Some specialty care patients have been waiting up to two months.

“It seems like the more critical the care needed the less care they get” Joe Price said.

The Albuquerque VA claims there was no “secret wait list” at the facility, but says the wait times need to be fixed.

Veterans got to hammer VA administrators with their stories Friday.

“Seven years I’ve been trying to get appointments…and I’ve had cat scans for my cancer and I couldn’t get any other kind of appointment.” Mr. Smith said.

While there were some successes, many say the VA is ignoring underserving or making care too complicated.

“The care is great if the dice rolls the right way and that’s kind of the problem,” Sen. Craig Brandt said.

The VA is planning to hold more open meetings with veterans.

In the meantime, administrators say they have been calling all veterans who have been waiting to get them help immediately.

Some of the discussion Friday also suggested making a pilot program to allow veterans to see local doctors in rural New Mexico, instead of making long drives often to Albuquerque.

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