The Gulf Coast VA heard about issues with access and care from several veterans at a town hall meeting on Tuesday evening.
Army veteran Timothy Waldrop of Biloxi says he’s had to wait hours on the phone to make appointments at the VA. He’s also spent hours waiting in the emergency room.
"I come in here at 4 oclock and at 7 o’clock was still in the lobby and was having chest pains," he says.
Waldrop says he’s also been waiting for the VA to schedule a liver biopsy that was ordered by a doctor to take place as soon as possible. He eventually called to make the appointment himself.
"I had to bring it to their attention that the doctor put 'expedite,'" he says. "Nobody bothers to read. It's like pulling teeth. You hope you can get it out."
Waldrup was one of about a half dozen veterans to share their concerns, ask questions and offer ideas at a Town Hall meeting hosted by the VA in Biloxi. Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System director Anthony Dawson says about 92 percent of the 45,000 total appointments scheduled at the Gulf Coast VA were made within 30 days. But that still leaves about 3,400 times that vets didn’t get appointments within 30 days.
"We have more work to do in order to make sure that we bridge the gaps," Dawson said. "And some of the ideas that were presented tonight will be looked at very, very carefully because access is definitely one of our main priorities."
In Biloxi, the VA scheduled about 19,000 total appointments, with about 93 percent scheduled within 30 days.