ATLANTA — Atlanta veterans are waiting an average of more than 100 days to see doctors in some specialties at the Atlanta VA Medical Center — in some cases, double the wait time elsewhere around the country.
The new data comes from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ own newly updated Access to Care website.
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It’s designed to provide more transparency and more information for veterans.
Channel 2 Consumer Investigator Justin Gray used the web portal to look at wait times for local veterans.
Gray found that for several specialties, veterans on average are waiting longer here than the VA’s national average.
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The longest wait was for a urology appointment. New patients in Atlanta averaged 130 days, compared to 48 days for the VA nationwide.
Gastroenterology appointments take 119 days to line up in Atlanta, compared to 64 days systemwide.
New OB/GYN patients wait 108 days in Atlanta, which is more than double the national wait time.
General women’s health appointments take nearly four times as long to schedule in Atlanta than elsewhere in the system.
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Gray took his findings to Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff, who said he would address the problem immediately.
“I will be in contact with the Atlanta VA today to demand answers and an explanation of why these wait times remain so long,” Ossoff said.
The VA told Channel 2 Action News in a statement that these numbers don’t tell the full picture.
“While the average wait time data for new patient appointments is accurate, it would be wrong to characterize this data as the amount of time a veteran must wait or had to wait, because these averages also include appointments for which veterans waited because that appointment date in the future is exactly when they agreed with their provider that the care was needed.”
VA officials also said the numbers on the website focus on new patients, not all patients.
However, Denis McDonough, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, told employees in an email Tuesday that the website’s purpose as to “give veterans a better sense of how long it takes — on average — to access VA health care.”
“When these delays are imposed on our veterans, it means that serious issues became worse, that chronic conditions become acute, that suffering and pain that could be eased become worse,” Ossoff said.
VA officials also pointed out that they have opened new clinics in Cobb and Pike counties, and added more Saturday and virtual visits to try to shorten wait times.
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