WASHINGTON — Military veterans in Atlanta are waiting longer than anywhere else in the state for medical care.
An audit just released by the VA reviewed 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics. It follows allegations veterans died waiting for care in Phoenix, Arizona.
Veterans seeking care through the Atlanta VA Medical Center are waiting an average of 64 days for their first appointment with a primary care doctor; that's more than four times longer than the Department of Veterans Affairs goal.
Patients at the Augusta VA medical center are waiting about 30 days.
"Being able to review this data should help us not just decide the scope, or determine the scope, but also to evaluate proposed reforms," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
An inspector general discovered staff at the Phoenix VA hospital was keeping a secret list to mask just how long veterans were waiting to see a doctor.
We now know 57,000 veterans across the country are waiting 90 days or longer for their first medical appointment, including 180 veterans in Atlanta.
Those figures were reported only after the patient care scandal broke open.
"This continues to be a priority," Earnest said.
The audit found that about 13 percent of VA schedulers were told to falsify appointment-request dates to make waiting times appear shorter than they actually were.
The VA has ordered a further review of the Atlanta and Augusta facilities, as they were flagged for possible misconduct.
The VA originally had a goal of 14 days for first-time patients. It's now abandoned that goal, calling it unattainable and too ambitious.
The VA said it's already contacted 50,000 veterans trying to get them quicker medical care.