The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that the “Road to Veterans Day” initiative has had significant progress over the past three months. The initiative was announced on September 8th by Secretary Robert A. McDonald. Over the past three months, the VA has taken deliberate actions to improve service delivery for Veterans, rebuild trust, increase accountability and transparency and put the department on the path to long-term excellence and reform.
To improve service delivery, the VA has prioritized efforts to accelerate Veterans off of wait lists and into clinics through the Accelerated Care Initiative begun by Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson this summer. The Accelerated Care Initiative has helped VA medical centers increase access to care inside and outside of the VA, added more clinic hours and work days, deployed mobile medical units, and shared their best practices from VA’s high-performing facilities throughout the organization.
Some improvements include the following: About 1.2 million more appointments were scheduled in the past four months than in the same period last year; reduced the national new patient Primary Care wait time by 18 percent; completing 98 percent of appointments within 30 days of the Veterans’ preferred date, or date determine to be medically necessary by physician; and authorizing 1.1 million non-VA care authorizations, a 47 percent increase over the same period last year.
Over the past few months, the VA has focused on identifying the scope of the problems facing the department and taking significant actions to correct deficiencies. Since June of this year, the VA has proposed disciplinary action against more than 40 employees nationwide related to data manipulation or patient care. The VA is also working to cooperate with over 100 investigations currently being undertaken by the VA Inspector General, the Justice Department, and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC).
As a part of the “Road to Veterans Day,” the VA is working on a VA homelessness program and the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Claims Transformation Strategy. The VA remains committed to working with its federal, state and local partners to end homelessness among Veterans, which has been reduced to 33 percent since 2010. The backlog of disability claims have been reduced by 60% since its peak in March of 2013. The backlog is on track to be eliminated by 2015 and will continue to expand online claim-submission capability in all programs.