Undercover federal investigation confirms Veterans’ healthcare concerns in South Dakota and across the nation

Federal undercover investigation confirms Veteran's reports of delayed medical appointments
Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 1:20 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -In 2019, the Care in Community program was launched in South Dakota, allowing veterans to get healthcare outside of the VA system, booked through a VA call center.

However, waiting to get an appointment booked was frustrating for many attempting to get the care. Senator Mike Rounds continues to advocate for South Dakota Veterans’ access to healthcare.

“Our veterans could get equal or better care using a local physician or a local hospital. Congress has authorized it, but VA has been extremely slow in actually implementing it in part because they’d rather keep the money internally,” said Rounds.

Hearing of these concerns on a nationwide level, the Government Accountability Office health director Sharon Silas and her staff launched an undercover operation, with callers posing as Veteran’s wanting to book an appointment. Calls were placed in the midwest and across the nation.

“We thought it would be a good method for us to help better understand appointment scheduling challenges firsthand, and we found numerous examples of inaccurate information about these providers, limited appointment availability, and insufficient staff to schedule veterans’ appointments,” said Silas in a GAO podcast.

The GAO also surveyed VA hospitals as well and found that only 6 percent had enough staff to book outside doctor appointments. Rounds hopes the recent GAO report will make a difference.

“Sometimes you gotta kick a little butt if you’re gonna get something done in any organization that’s part of the federal government,” said Rounds.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has already responded to the report, promising new plans to create change, implemented in late January 2023.

“Now it’s our responsibility. To honor our commitment to them and provide them with the services which they have earned,” said Rounds.