Members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation are upset over the release of an audit today showing that Honolulu’s Spark M. Matsunaga VA Medical Center has the longest average wait time — 145 days — in the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs troubled system.
The wait time involves new patient primary care appointments.
“This excessive wait time is unacceptable,” said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in a press release. “It is clear that the VA needs additional resources to match increasing demand for health services.”
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, a member of the Veterans Affairs and Armed Services Committees, called the audit’s conclusion “extremely troubling.”
“The medical center faces challenges involving neighbor island transportation and access, but these should not be excuses,” she said in a press release.
Hirono said she would introduce legislation this week to provide “immediate relief for waiting veterans who require emergency procedures,” while Schatz reiterated his support for legislation from Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would make the VA more accountable and improve access to health care.
Hirono supports that bill, too, which would authorize a $15.88 million lease for an Advance Leeward Outpatient Healthcare Access (ALOHA) Center in the Ewa Plain of Oahu.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard reiterated her call for “an immediate solution to this urgent crisis that would allow veterans to seek care outside of the VA health system’s bureaucratic pre-approval process.” In her own press release, she called the the results of the VA audit in Honolulu “infuriating, and deeply disappointing.”
A veteran herself, the congresswoman added, “Last week, as I traveled all across Hawaii holding a Veterans Listening Tour, I heard from veterans of every conflict since WWII, from every county, about their challenges accessing VA healthcare. Some came with tears streaming down their face, as they begged for someone to please help them. It makes me sick knowing that our returned warriors are subject to begging for care when they come home. The time for immediate action has come and gone.”
Finally, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa said in her own press release, “Even with that progress and with a new Hawaii VA clinic in the pipeline, for me the audit report is a call for more and faster action. Right now I am reviewing a number of proposals from both sides of the aisle. I think it’s critical that we do not play politics with the health of our veterans.”