Vets wait minutes, not weeks, to be seen at Fayetteville crisis center
Posted June 20, 2014
Fayetteville, N.C. — Nearly 800 veterans seeking medical care visited a "crisis center" the American Legion set up in Fayetteville this week to address lengthy wait times at the local VA hospital.
A recent audit by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs determined that the VA hospital in Fayetteville has one of the longest waiting times nationwide for new patients – 83 days – while existing patients wait an average of 29 days for a primary care appointment. 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 American Legion opened its crisis center at Post 202 on Ramsey Street on Tuesday to help veterans file medical claims with the VA, set up appointments and obtain health screenings.
"They take real good care of me here. I can't say nothing bad about that," said Don Woods, a former Marine who stopped by the center on Friday to check on a claim.
Air Force veteran Calvin Kirk wanted to see if he could get the results of X-rays done on his knees in April at the Fayetteville VA hospital. He said he's used to waiting for care.
"It takes about a year to get into the eye clinic," Kirk said.
The staff at the American Legion post also saw spouses and children of veterans, providing counseling and help with claims.
Jackie Alford said she had been trying since October to get her father a motorized wheelchair.
"It wasn't easy, and (we) kept getting doors slammed in our face," Alford said.
Elizabeth Goolsby, director of the Fayetteville VA hospital, told veterans during a town hall meeting Monday hosted by the American Legion that the hospital is expanding to be able to see more patients.
"There's no one who can fix the system better than the people who use it," Kirk said Friday. "Let us tell you what's wrong."
The American Legion plans to head to El Paso, Texas, to run another center, and a spokeswoman for the organization said the goal is to have the VA and local American Legion chapters host centers in various locations on a quarterly basis.