SD Veterans claim VA hospital care, referral programs getting worse

“The VA can’t hold, and it’s evident that they can’t manage the amount of veterans that are...
“The VA can’t hold, and it’s evident that they can’t manage the amount of veterans that are seeking care,” said Johnson.
Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 10:26 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -It’s been almost a year since a joint group of South Dakota Veterans Associations wrote a letter of no confidence regarding the Director of the Sioux Falls VA hospital. The Director was reassigned, and the VA secretary, Denis McDonough, visited Sioux Falls, making a promise.

“Dramatically reducing the time veterans wait on calls,” said McDonough.

Following up this week in Washington, Senator Rounds revealed that the calls are answered quickly, but it’s basically a message service.

“It can take up to two months for the veteran to receive a call back to schedule that appointment,” said Rounds.

“Waiting two months to get a call back from the scheduler is unacceptable,” said McDonough. “We’ll we’ll get those right.”

Veterans can choose to be seen within the VA system or get a referral for another facility. Either way, the South Dakota Veteran’s council president, Connie Johnson, says the care for veterans is getting worse.

“The VA can’t hold, and it’s evident that they can’t manage the amount of veterans that are seeking care,” said Johnson.

She advocates for veterans who are now struggling with care inside the VA hospital.

“They treat him like he’s still in the military, and he should just walk it off, bring some water and some ibuprofen and be on his way,” said Johnson.

One Veteran she advocated for couldn’t wait for a November appointment and paid his own way to get help.

“And he was in the hospital for six days for serious medical conditions. And he didn’t go to the VA. He went to Sanford,” said Johnson.

Johnson believes the VA would be better as an insurance agency that pays the bills for patients treated at non-VA facilities.

And then those legitimate medical concerns are then just sent to the VA to be paid for,” said Johnson. “Why is it that we have to continue to fight for our right to have medical care when we’ve already fought for the freedom of our country? It doesn’t make sense.”

As of September 14th at the VA hospital in Sioux Falls, 17 scheduler positions and five RN positions were open in the care in the community phone referral department.