Decatur (CBS46) A new report shows veterans experience extreme delays while trying to secure doctor appointments.
The scathing report shows the Atlanta VA is performing below guild lines. According to the investigation by the VA Officer of Inspector General, in 72% of the cases they reviewed, veterans did not get a doctor’s appointment within the 30-day time frame required; some veterans even waited more than 200 days before being seen by a physician.
"He didn’t have that time to play with, he was fighting for his life," said Cindy Thompson.
Thompson is talking about her deceased husband veteran Eddie Thompson and the delays he experienced over the years while trying to get treatment at the VA.
"He had heart problems and he should’ve been seeing his heart doctor at least once every two or three months, but a whole year went by before they scheduled him," added Thompson. "We would call and try to find out when and it was always hard to get to anybody to do anything at the VA."
Thompson's husband eventually died of cancer. She says her husband's death is attributed to his cancer going untreated due to the VA's lack of appointment scheduling.
In April 2018 there were more than 18,000 open consult cases, in July 2019 the number dropped to about 13,700, and now the backlog of open causes is more than 21,000. But the VA says only about 10,000 of that group is still waiting to see a doctor.
According to the report, the backlog is the result of inconsistent scheduling, inconsistent oversight and leadership, and a lack of staffing. The report recommends the Atlanta VA turn things around by October 2020.
The Atlanta VA says they have already made progress reducing the number of veterans waiting to see a doctor by 30 percent. Their statement went on to say they’ve also created a standardized scheduling process, and increased their Community Care staffing by 180%. But for veterans like Eddie Thomspon, who was told he had a 90% chance of surviving his cancer, it's too late.
"He did have his final treatment, but it had progressed so far. I’ll always be convinced it was all the delays. He had a really good chance and because of the delays he’s gone," said Thompson.
It’s important to note the VA says no patients were negatively impacted while waiting for an appointment, but those who spoke to CBS46 strongly disagree.