VA exaggerated how quickly it saw mental-health patients, report finds

In reality, the report said, only 49 percent of patients were evaluated in the two-week window, and the others waited an average of 50 days for the evaluation.

The report also found that the 64 percent of new patients received appointments for treatment within 14 days of their desired date, a lower number than the VA’s claim of 95 percent.

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Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who commissioned the IG report, said the report was “deeply disturbing.”

“This report confirms what we have long been hearing, that our veterans are waiting far too long to get the mental health care they so desperately need,” Murray said in a statement.

VA Undersecretary for Health Robert Petzel concurred with the report’s findings, and said the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the health-care arm of the VA, is “committed to providing veterans the best care possible,” and said the agency would “act rapidly on all findings that may improve veterans’ access to mental health care.

The VA announced last Thursday ahead of the report’s release that it was boosting its mental-health staff by 1,900, including 1,600 mental-health clinicians.

The IG report cited staffing levels as one of the issues for the delay in care, even after previous staffing increases.

“Despite the increase in mental health care providers,” the report said, “VHA’s mental health care service staff still did not believe they had enough staff to handle the increased workload and consistently see patients within 14 days of the desired date.”