Udall Responds To VA Report On Wait List And Staffing Problems At New Mexico VA Health Care System

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Udall Responds To VA Report On Wait List And Staffing Problems At New Mexico VA Health Care System

Udall Reiterates Calls for Immediate Improvements, Resources to Ensure NM Veterans Get the Care They Deserve.

WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Tom Udall responded to a new Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) report on “Concerns with Access and Delays in Outpatient Mental Health Care at the New Mexico VA Health Care System in Albuquerque, New Mexico.”

In 2014, as the VA faced a national scandal involving fake wait lists and long waits for care, Udall collected accounts from New Mexico veterans about VA officials attempting to manipulate the scheduling system to cover up the extent of VA wait lists for appointments and other disturbing claims to refer to the OIG. This week’s report by the OIG provides evidence that, years later, VA staff were still misusing the electronic wait list. Additionally, the report finds that shortages among health providers and staff have led to long wait times of between one and four months for new patients’ access to mental health services, and that veterans’ health care outcomes have suffered as a result.

On the Senate Appropriations Committee, Udall has fought to increase incentives for new health providers at the VA.  In March, Udall met with Secretary Wilkie regarding the urgent need to address staffing shortages and decreasing capabilities at the New Mexico VA. In a letter, Udall urged Secretary Wilkie to act quickly to fill vacancies and hire medical practitioners including mental health providers and physicians. Udall has also fought for increased funding for the VA OIG to conduct critical investigations that will help ensure our veterans receive the health care they deserve. 

Udall issued the following statement: 

“This report underscores the intolerable reality that too many New Mexico veterans have experienced firsthand for years – unacceptable delays and a shortage of the care veterans deserve and are owed. New Mexico’s veterans have served our nation with the utmost dedication and distinction. And while we can never fully repay the debt we owe to our veterans, at the very least, we must make sure that they receive quality health care in a timely and efficient manner. In particular, providing comprehensive and easy access to quality mental health care is of the utmost importance. But thanks to the VA OIG we know the VA continues to fall well short of that standard, and is failing to deliver for our veterans. 

“It is beyond clear that the VA must take immediate action to address staffing and provider shortages and recruitment issues that are leading to these unacceptable and longstanding issues at the New Mexico VA Health Care System. The Trump administration’s attacks on federal employees has led to unprecedented staff turnover at VA hospitals. I have repeatedly pressed the VA and its leadership to make improvements, and I have fought through the Appropriations Committee to secure resources to address the problem of retention and recruitment at the VA. But the VA must do so much more than it has done, and I will keep fighting to ensure New Mexico’s veterans get the care they have earned.”