More than four years after the Department of Veterans Affairs ordered a probe into long waits at the Floyd Lindstrom Clinic in Colorado Springs, veterans here still face some of the nation’s longest delays in care.
The latest wait time data from VA shows that one patient in five waits more than a month to be seen, and the average wait for mental health visits is more than three weeks.
The wait times, virtually unchanged despite years of congressional cries for a fix, come after the agency opened its massive, new and incredibly expensive hospital in Aurora.
The $1.7 billion hospital was more than $1 billion over budget, but it was supposed to help ease wait times statewide.
The latest, low health grade for the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System also remains unchanged, with two stars out of five. That’s three straight years of two-star care for the Pikes Peak region’s 85,000 long-suffering veterans.
And the hits just keep coming for VA.
The agency has long held up its benefit arm as an example of its best work. But for veterans who want to use their GI Bill benefits at college, it’s been a nightmare of late.
VA has blamed an elderly mainframe computer for glitches that have held up some GI Bill payments for thousands of veterans.
Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner has been pushing VA to fix the issue, which came as the agency switched how it calculated housing allowances.
VA has said it’s working on a fix, and Gardner wants to make sure veterans who saw their checks shorted get their money.
He’s pushing a bill to force VA to pay up.
“Most problems Congress addresses are complicated and do not have one ‘right’ answer. This is not one of those issues,” Gardner said in an email. “To me, it’s pretty clear what the right thing to do is: Congress must act to ensure our student veterans receive every penny they are entitled to.”
While 2019 is expected to be a fractious year in Congress, with a Republican-run Senate and a new Democratic majority in the House, Gardner’s bill is a model of bipartisan harmony. He’s working the measure with Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones.
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the agency is committed to fixing the GI Bill snafu.
“Although VA has encountered issues with implementing the Forever GI Bill on Congress’ timeline, we will work with lawmakers to ensure that — once VA is in a position to process education claims in accordance with the new law — each and every beneficiary will receive retroactively the exact benefits to which they are entitled under that law,” Wilkie said in a news release.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx