Crisis center to help with VA backlog opens in Fayetteville
Posted June 17, 2014
Fayetteville, N.C. — The American Legion on Tuesday opened a "crisis center" in Fayetteville to help local veterans get medical care more quickly.
The VA hospital in Fayetteville has one of the longest waiting times for new patients – 83 days – while existing patients wait an average of 29 days for a primary care appointment, according to a recent audit by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Agency guidelines call for veterans to be seen within 14 days of their desired date for a primary care appointment.
Across the country, more than 57,000 veterans waited 90 days or more for their first VA appointment and an additional 64,000 never got an appointment after enrolling and requesting one, the audit found.
"The backlog is out of control," Verna Jones, director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation for the national American Legion, said Tuesday.
The American Legion wants to "bring the services to the veterans," Jones said, so the center at Post 202, at 834 Ramsey St., will operate this week.
Staff will help veterans file medical claims with the VA, set up appointments and conduct health screenings.
"Veterans deserve (help)," Jones said, noting that about 60 veterans came to the crisis center within an hour of its opening Tuesday. "They don't need to wait any longer."
The center will be open until 8 p.m. Tuesday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and from 8 a.m. to noon Friday.
The American Legion also hosted a town hall meeting Monday night that allowed veterans to air their grievances to Elizabeth Goolsby, director of the Fayetteville VA hospital, and American Legion national officials.
Goolsby said the hospital is expanding to be able to see more patients. It also has added a mobile unit and will be hiring temporary staff.
Last week, Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson visited the Fayetteville hospital and announced it would receive $7.4 million to divert some veterans to nearby medical clinics to help address the facility’s wait times.