VA wait times triple initial estimates

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) urges further information in the wake of new findings that indicate Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital wait times nationwide are triple the initial estimate.

Blumenthal said in an announcement this morning that he will send another letter to acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson seeking an explanation for the disparity between the initial and new findings.

Meanwhile, a veteran died awaiting an ambulance after collapsing in an Albuquerque, New Mexico VA cafeteria, according to the Associated Press. The man, who collapsed about 500 yards from the emergency room, died after waiting about 20 minutes, according to the article. Hospital staff called 911 in accordance with local policy, according to VA spokeswoman Sonja Brown. "Our policy is under expedited review," she said.

President Barack Obama has nominated former Procter & Gamble CEO Bob McDonald to replace Eric Shinseki as VA Secretary, but his experience as a corporate executive may be too far removed from the nature of the VA system, former New Hampshire Sen. John E. Sununu writes in an opinion piece for the Boston Globe.

"For all of its complexity, P&G manufactures and distributes diapers, detergent, and beauty products. The VA, by contrast, comprises an expansive network of nearly 1,000 medical centers and clinics nationwide," Sununu writes. "It employs tens of thousands of doctors, nurses, and technicians delivering healthcare services and treatment to 9 million enrollees. The White House heralded McDonald as the 'perfect person' to run the VA, but surely a CEO of a hospital network or insurance firm would be far better suited to the challenges at hand."

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) expressed similar sentiments, according to the Arizona Republic. "Unless we change the way the VA does business, we will not change anything," McCain said.

McDonald can improve the VA by emphasizing "complex interventions," implementing a zero-tolerance policy for fraudulent practices and downsizing within the system, according to an editorial by the Green Bay Press Gazette.

Money is the root of the current VA scandal and previous ones, writes Benjamin Krause of "At the 30,000-foot view, VA looks like little more than an insurance company for [the Defense Department] that mitigates the cost of war to the best of its ability," Krause writes. "Lately, those attempts to keep costs down look like they veered onto the wrong side of the law."

In various parts of the country, including Phoenix, El Paso, Texas, and Fayetteville, North Carolina, veterans turn to the American Legion, which has held town hall meetings and established temporary crisis centers to help them access health benefits, enroll in the VA system and schedule doctor's appointments, according to Fox News.

To learn more:
- here are the latest findings
- read Blumenthal's announcement
- read the AP article
- check out the opinion piece
- read the Arizona Republic article
- read Krause's piece
- read the Fox News article
- read the Green Bay Press Gazette article