Report: VA health care still has 'profound deficiencies'

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Durham VA (WTVD)

A congressional commission says the Department of Veterans Affairs' health operations still have "profound deficiencies," two years after a scandal over long wait times for veterans seeking care.

RELATED: Veterans encouraged by improvement in VA wait times

The Commission on Care says in a report released Wednesday that the VA delivers high-quality care but is inconsistent from one health care site to the next, and problems with access remain.


The panel says the VA needs to improve service, adding that the VA's health care operations "require urgent reform. America's veterans deserve a better organized, high-performing health care system."

Congress created the 12-member commission in 2014 after approving a law overhauling the VA after the wait-time scandal, which also revealed that VA employees were covering up chronic delays with false paperwork and secret waiting lists.

RELATED: Town halls show Durham VA's progress, challenges

With 28 years in the Army - including service at Fort Bragg and in Vietnam - Willie Harris is familiar with the health care system for veterans.

"I had replacement knee surgery in 2014, and it's been giving me problems ever since then," he said.

Harris said the level of care from a doctor he saw earlier frustrated him, to the point where he requested another specialist.

However, he said seeing them took 18 months.

"I kept going back and forth to him, saying there's a problem with it, and he didn't want to hear it," Harris said. "But I finally said, I don't want you anymore. I need to see somebody else, to tell me what's happening with my leg."

Complaints like his are what led to the 300-page report.

Wednesday's report includes 15 recommendations for improvements:

Establish care networks, enhance VA clinical operations, and develop a process for appeals - among other suggestions.

It also calls for creating a strategy for meeting health provider needs, modernizing the VA it systems and transforming the culture of VA health care.

And most important for army veterans like Harris, it calls for streamlining and focusing the measurement of services performed.

"The efficiency of some of the doctors is not good," Harris said. "I don't know, I just have to hope, wait and see how this turns out. I hope they get it, make it better."

Following the release of the report, Durham VA Medical Center released a statement that said in part that they are "proud of the changes we have put in place to increase access to and the quality of care for the nearly 70,000 Veterans we serve."


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