Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mental Health Care Waits Much Longer Than VA Acknowledged

With the need for mental health care growing dramatically after years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, veterans often have to wait to get an appointment with a mental health clinician, but the delays veterans face in obtaining this care turn out to be much longer than indicated by data from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Washington Post reported on April 24 that the VA Office of Inspector General has found that in 2011 only about half of veterans seeking mental health care for the first time were seen within 14 days, not the 95% that the VA had claimed were seen within 14 days. And a majority waited an average of 50 days for a comprehensive evaluation, the report stated. Responding to the inspector general's finding, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.), called the situation "deeply disturbing" and demanded action from the VA. "Getting our veterans timely mental health care can...be the difference between life and death," she said.

Last week the VA announced that it plans to hire 1,900 additional psychiatrists and other clinicians to meet the demand for mental health care.

To read about critical mental health issues in combat veterans, see Psychiatric News here and here.

(image: Straight 8 photography/Shutterstock.com)


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