Investigation Shows Vets Wait Longer at Truman for Mental Care

3 years 11 months 2 weeks ago Tuesday, November 05 2013 Nov 5, 2013 Tuesday, November 05, 2013 1:49:00 PM CST November 05, 2013 in News
By: Cristina Alexander, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA - A USA Today investigation published Tuesday said Columbia's Harry S Truman VA hospital has not fully met its goal of seeing veterans for mental health care needs within a 14-day period.

According to newspaper, Columbia is the second worst of five VA centers the investigation examined in terms of seeing patients in the two-week window. In the 2013 fiscal year, the Truman received requests for 3,307 appointments and failed to see 54.5 percent of patients within the two-week goal.

In the hospital's defense, Truman's public affairs officer said the numbers don't reflect what really goes on in the hospital, citing a system to see the patients who need care the most first.

"Truman VA is committed to providing mental health services to veterans in a timely and appropriate manner," Stephen Gaither said. "Because of our mental health triage system, patients could be seen almost immediately."

The triage system sorts through new patients and indicates which patient could be seen first based on the severity of their condition.

"A new veteran coming in for new mental health services, through that triage system, they could be seen that day if they choose," Gaither said. "If they choose not to do that, we get them scheduled within that 14-day period, more often than not."

A Columbia veteran of Afghanistan had no complaints Tuesday regarding his counselor, but when it comes with working in his appointments with the hospital, he said its taken a long time to get those appointments.

"I do think they're slow," Delano Lenyard, an employee of Veteran's United said. "I've waited months for my appointments."

Lenyard said depending on the urgency of his situation, his counselor is available immediately. He said his problem when working with the VA hospital is the waiting time for tests.

"I scheduled a sleep apnea test in February of this year and I just got it about two, three months ago," Lenyard said. "It's just a slow process."

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