First, Maryland residents learned that wait times for the state’s estimated 450,000 veterans to receive care at the Baltimore VA Medical Center was among the worst in the country.
Now, VA officials say that the Baltimore Regional Benefit Office within the Veterans Affairs system appears to have a privacy breach.
A Baltimore employee of the benefits division was replaced after officials found thousands of claims documents stacked in his office, reports WJZ TV. Managers are sorting through documents and claim folders to determine which contain Social Security and other sensitive information.
Acting director of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson admits trust has been broken. “Ultimately that’s what we’re after: trust,” Gibson told WJZ.
“We have a responsibility to take care of all of their needs. They answered their call immediately and they did not expect that they would have to fight their bureaucracy when they returned home. Fighting our enemies was enough of a battle for them. Let’s make sure we take care of them,” said Senator Ben Cardin.
Wait Times for Veterans to See Doctors
veterans face one of the longest waits in the country to receive care at
Veterans Administration medical centers, according to checks.
Veterans and Maryland Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin said in June the biggest hurdle is gaining that first appointment. The senators visited the Baltimore VA Medical Center last month to focus on the wait time issue and talk to the veterans who visit the hospital.
Lawmakers, veterans and taxpayers began to closely scrutinize access to VA hospitals following allegations this spring that 40 patients died while awaiting care at the Phoenix VA hospital, The Washington Post reports. Employees at the Phoenix location kept a secret waiting list to cover delays in medical treatment.
Audit results showed Maryland as the state with
the fourth-longest wait for new patients seeking a primary care doctor, according
to the Washington Post. The wait time? 81 days -- five times the two-week
period that the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department set as guidelines for someone
to see a doctor.
“The administration system is an absolute jumble,” VA patient Elliott Gage told CBS Baltimore. “Close to chaos. Nobody knows exactly how anything works. It’s like the telephone company. They really don’t know how all the wires come together. They call it the machine.”
The federal government has allocated $58 billion to the VA medical system -- a $2 billion increase from last year, according to CBS Baltimore. Out of that total, $500 million is dedicated to hire more primary care doctors to service patients. The Senate has also passed a bill to move patients into the private sector for treatment if VA facilities cannot provide timely care.
Nationally, Washington Post reports the audit, which included interviews with more than 3,772 VA employees between May 12 and June 3, found over 57,000 patients still waiting for an initial appointment 90 days after requesting them.