The latest news on the Veterans Affairs effort to shorten wait times at Puget Sound healthcare facilities has good news and bad news.
The good news is that veterans’ access to mental health services is up. The average waiting time to be seen by a mental-health provider is just over a day, which compares to a national VA average of more than five days, the Seattle Times reported last week.
Given the impact on mental health from serving in combat and other overseas missions, and the high incidence of soldier suicides, the gains in access to mental health are welcome, if not unexpected, at an agency that at times seems unable to make things right.
On the downside, the average wait for a military patient to see a primary care doctor has gone from a little less than eight days to 11 days. This has happened over one year, despite ongoing congressional pressure for reform, and despite the Obama administration’s appointment of former Proctor & Gamble executive Robert McDonald as secretary of the VA.
Everyone should agree that growing wait times are unacceptable.
That’s not to fault the new guy so much as to underscore how deeply ingrained the problems appear to be, and how two wars have strained the VA’s ability to respond to a growing population of veterans. The VA operates hospitals at American Lake and in the Seattle area and has seven clinics in the Puget Sound region.
The report said the agency is also getting some homeless veterans into housing paid with vouchers – succeeding for 639 veterans in the last year with 130 more unsuccessful.
The Times report said the processing of benefits claims is an area where the VA is making some of its greatest strides locally and nationally. A computerization effort over several years is credited for some of the gains, and overtime work by Northwest workers is also cited. The agency is trying to hire more primary care doctors for Puget Sound facilities, too.
The White House and Congress need to keep the pressure on.
ELEANOR FOR THE $10 BILL?
In the quest to put a historically significant woman on U.S. paper currency for the first time in a century, there may be a favorite emerging.
Almost a third of registered voters favored Eleanor Roosevelt, the longest-serving first lady in our country’s history, said a recent McClatchy-Marist poll. Roosevelt is credited for pushing for rights for women, African-Americans and Asian-Americans.
The Obama administration has said it intends to add a woman’s face to the $10 bill in 2020, in time for the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. That decision comes after a “Women on 20s” campaign that sought to replace Andrew Jackson with a woman on 20-dollar bills.
Roosevelt was favored by almost a third of those answering a McClatchy-Marist poll, but she has competition. Abolitionist Harriet Tubman received 20 percent of polled voters’ support; Native American guide Sacagawea and two other women, pilot Amelia Earhart, and suffragist Susan B. Anthony, each had 11 percent, followed by Sandra J. O’Connor, first woman justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Treasury Department has asked the public for suggestions. Eleanor Roosevelt is a good choice. We can’t help but ask what a poll of historians might show.