U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Robert McDonald says the troubled agency is making slow progress in getting its house in order, citing more — and more timely — appointments and authorizations to see private doctors for veterans who live far from VA hospitals.
McDonald was confirmed in July to take over the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs after a scandal at the Phoenix VA hospital revealed enormous wait lists for appointments, resulting in delayed treatment that may have cost lives.
McDonald, speaking at Harvard Law School on Monday, said that from May to September the VA had 1.2 million more appointments than during the same period a year earlier, and 98 percent of them were completed within 30 days of the patient’s preferred time. On top of that, he said, between May and November, 1.5 million authorizations were made for private care — a 50 percent increase over the same period a year earlier — for veterans who lived far from a VA clinic or hospital. The department also is reorganizing and building more facilities.
“I think the VA is heading in a new direction, and I would argue the right direction, and making progress,” McDonald said. …
McDonald was the inaugural speaker in a new lecture series at Harvard Law School, the Disabled American Veterans Distinguished Speaker Series, supported by the nonprofit organization Disabled American Veterans. The group’s past national commander, Alan Bowers, said the series is a recognition of both the work Harvard Law School has done for disabled veterans through its legal clinic, and the help that a future generation of lawyers can give to veterans fighting for their benefits.
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