VA looks to establish same-day appointments for primary and mental health care

    (NewsWorks file photo)

    (NewsWorks file photo)

    By end of the year, veterans will have access to same-day primary care and mental health services, according to a top Veterans Affairs official.

    That promise comes in the wake of investigations into lengthy waits for veterans  in need of care in Philadelphia and beyond.

    Dr. David Shulkin, the VA’s undersecretary of health, said the organization is in the midst of an overhaul to improve access to care. 

    “We’re putting in place systems that makes sense to veterans, we’re changing the way that we deliver care, we’re now focused on clinical urgency,” Shulkin said in a recent interview with USA Today.

    On Friday, Shulkin detailed new VA efforts to make sure veterans can get care when and where they need it. One goal is to provide same-day appointments for necessary care. 

    “I think it’s great,” said Jose Martinez, who directs the Veterans Group in Philadelphia. The nonprofit operates a 41-bed home and helps hundreds of veterans with benefits and other needs each year.

    “I think that for a veteran to be able to get same-day appointments is an amazing thing,” he said.

    Martinez, a veteran, has found it is possible to get an appointment the same day, and he’s helped many veterans to do the same. But, he said,  you have to know how to work the system —  who to talk to and what to say.

    He said he hopes these new efforts focus on making the process easier for all vets because he sees a lot of people getting discouraged when they try on their own but hit a wall.

    “And they leave. And they become homeless. They become chronically homeless, and they’re not on their medications,” he said.

    The VA’s announcement comes in the wake of nationwide investigations into problems with VA wait times and staff being pressured to alter reports to reduce the appearance of delays.

    Philadelphia and Wilmington centers are mentioned in the reports. Officials at both centers have said they are addressing the problems.

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