Tester statement on release of VA Audit

Senator: Today’s report key to improving access to care issues

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester, Montana’s only member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today released the following statement after the Department of Veterans Affairs released the results of its Nationwide Access Audit. The audit reveals information regarding patient access, quality of care and mental health care at VA facilities nationwide – including Fort Harrison outside Helena where the average wait for an initial primary care appointment is more than 47 days:

“Forty-seven days is too long for anyone to wait – much less a veteran who sacrificed for our freedoms. Today’s report shows that once veterans get in the door at the VA they get good care. However, more needs to be done to increase their access. I will keep working to address the systemic issues preventing veterans from getting the care they earned while also making sure the VA has the resources it needs. We must live up to our commitment to the men and women who served our nation.”

Today’s report also shows that Fort Harrison has the lowest wait time for established mental health patients in its region. Tester today spoke with the director of the VA’s regional healthcare network that includes Montana and Acting Director of VA Montana Johnny Ginnity about the report and the officials’ commitment to improving access to care.

In addition to holding a statewide veterans listening tour, Tester has already been developing a legislative agenda that will increase veterans’ access to care, reduce staffing shortages at VA facilities and hold VA officials more accountable. The Senate may consider a major bill to improve access to VA health care and accountability as soon as this week.

The VA’s report also said the department is eliminating its 14-day scheduling goal from employee performance contracts, establishing new patient satisfaction measurements, removing senior leaders where appropriate and speeding up the process of hiring clinical and support staff.