What's spurring wait times at Veteran's Affairs medical offices? - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

What's spurring wait times at Veteran's Affairs medical offices?

What's spurring wait times at Veteran's Affairs medical offices?

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TYLER (KYTX) -  Reports about the deaths of 40 veterans on a secret waiting list at a Phoenix Veteran's Affairs office has stirred up controversy.  
There's now a conversation nationwide about wait times for medical care at VA clinics.

CBS 19 looked into what kind of wait times we see in Tyler and Dallas, and why the system is so overwhelmed.  

Veteran Michael Beck of Tyler spent almost 14 years serving our country in the Marine Corps. His left shoulder, originally hurt in a helicopter accident during his service, has been re-injured so many times he now has a rare condition called dystonia.  

It may seem like Beck's arm is fine, but at any moment, a spasm can create pain so intense, it makes him pass out.  

"I got bounced around the VA trying to get help since 2011 and finally started getting help on it this past October. That's a long wait," he says.
His wait has been longer than most, because of his complicated injury, but many have a somewhat similar story.  
"I was frustrated," Beck says. "There were plenty of calls to the VA telling them you're overboard, This is a problem." 
In the past five years, the Dallas VA has added about 12,000 patients to its books and as the war comes to an end, about 25,000 troops from Iraq and Afghanistan are expected to return to North Texas.  
"It's insane," Beck says. "But how do you find time to adjust and fix it when you have a workload that's so demanding?"

VA offices like Dallas have added at least 200 staff members, but they say it's hard to keep up.  That's something Beck understands.  

"There's no other medical institution or hospital that handles the amount of people that the VA handles," he says.

The Tyler VA medical clinic is much smaller than an office like Dallas, so wait times are typically only 15 days. Plus, in about a year the Tyler facility will double in size, meaning fewer veterans have to travel to the already overwhelmed Dallas office.  

"It could take several months for an appointment," Beck says. 

The VA wait times are different depending on what type of doctor the veteran needs.  For example, Beck says there was little to no wait to get an appointment with the neurology department in Dallas, but that specialties like psych and orthopedics could have you waiting months.  

He says no matter what the specialty, the first appointment is the hardest to get. Now that he has seen the correct doctor for his shoulder, he is having success with the VA. He hopes plans for new VA programs will help get vets the care they need, as fast as possible.  

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