Wait time at Richmond VA averages 72 days

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Local,Virginia

WASHINGTON (AP) — The wait time for new patients seeking a primary care doctor at the VA Center in Richmond, Virginia, is more than 72 days — roughly five times what the Department of Veterans Affairs had set as a goal, according to data released Monday.

VA guidelines, since abandoned, said veterans should be seen within 14 days of their desired date for a primary care appointment. The department now says meeting that target was unattainable given existing resources and growing demand. Monday's audit by the VA called the 2011 decision by senior VA officials to set it, and then basing bonuses on meeting the target, an "organizational leadership failure."

Other VA facilities in Virginia also are exceeding that goal. In Hampton, the average wait time is just under 58 days. In Salem, the average wait is 34 1/2 days.

The numbers were released Monday by the Department of Veterans Affairs as part of a national audit. Nationally, the audit found that more than 57,000 patients are still waiting for initial medical appointments at VA hospitals and clinics 90 days or more after requesting them. The audit said 13 percent of VA schedulers reported supervisors telling them to falsify appointment dates to make waiting times appear shorter.

The VA Center in Richmond did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The massive bureaucracy at the VA has come under intense scrutiny following allegations that 40 patients died while awaiting care at a Phoenix hospital where employees kept a secret waiting list to cover up delays. That scandal led to the resignation last month of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

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Follow Fred Frommer on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ffrommer

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