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VA Lied About Wait Times

VA Lied About Wait TimesUp until Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) claimed that 95 percent of the vets are seen within 14 days after contacting them for mental health issues if not in crisis. We now know that’s a lie.

Federal investigators revealed yesterday that half the veterans who seek out mental health care in the VA system waited about 50 days — not 14 — before receiving a full evaluation. That’s not just a tiny lie. That’s a lie covering up a wait time that is 350 percent greater than the VA’s original claims. A wait time that clearly demonstrates that demand is outstripping supply of qualified mental health professionals.

But wait, it gets better. Because that’s not the only thing the VA has been fudging the numbers about.

First, let’s check out the metrics the VA was previously using to measure patient wait-times:

Under the VA’s protocol, patients seeking mental health care are supposed to get an initial evaluation within 24 hours in case care is urgently needed. Barring an emergency, the department seeks to provide a full evaluation within 14 days. However, the VA measures how long it took to conduct the evaluation, not how long a patient waited to receive an evaluation.

For example, if a patient is referred on Sept. 15 and the evaluation is scheduled and takes place on Oct. 1, then the VA would show that the veteran waited zero days, when in reality the patient had waited 15. Investigators called the VA’s tracking as “having no real value.”

In what twisted world would this way of measuring things be considered logical and providing practical information to administrators?

And now the cynic in me comes out…

Knowing the federal investigator’s report was forthcoming and having been told the gist of what it would reveal, the VA announced late last week that 1,900 new “mental health staff” would be added.

But that’s a lie as well.

Only 1,400 of those new positions are professionals who will offer direct care to individual veterans. The other 500 are support staff and professionals who will man related services — but who don’t provide direct clinical mental health care. For instance, 100 of them will be claims examiners — important positions, no doubt, but not mental health professionals helping veterans in treatment.

It’s an effort to “pump up the numbers” to suggest the VA is addressing the problems proactively in a bigger way than they are.

What it looks like they’re doing, in my opinion, is more covering their ass… Knowing a negative report was about to be released demonstrating that they were lying to veterans about the timeliness of services offered, they had no choice but to make an attempt to quell critics immediately by proactively offering more staff.

The real question we should ask ourselves is what would’ve happened if federal investigators hadn’t looked into the VA’s claims about their mental health service provisioning? Would the VA still have increased clinical staff?

It’s no wonder vets question their care by the VA… Because the VA seems not to be doing a very good job in meeting the mental health needs of returning soldiers and those who need the VA’s services.

VA Lied About Wait Times

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). VA Lied About Wait Times. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 24 Apr 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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