NEW ORLEANS - Tens of thousands of veterans in Southeast Louisiana rely on outpatient clinics for their health care. Many of those veterans are bused in daily to the Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in New Orleans. It's near the site of the old VA Medical Center, which has been shuttered since Hurricane Katrina. Veteran Victor Register says the lack of a full facility has caused wait times to get too long.
"I've waited 30 days to get an appointment and when I have gotten in have done vitals and waited up to five hours, six hours to see somebody."
Data shows wait times for new mental health patients to get an appointment within the regional VA health care system can stretch beyond two weeks. Roughly 45 percent of those patients end up waiting more than 14 days. USA Today obtained the data from the VA six months ago, and it represents only mental health patients. Local VA spokesperson Amanda Jones couldn't address the wait times.
"I'm not certain of the specific time frames, but I know we haven't had major access issues. If anybody does have any problems or feel like they have problems I encourage them to talk to their clinic manager their customer service manager or even call the office of the director," said Amanda Jones, who works in public affairs with the Southeast Veterans Affairs Health Care System.
Larry Jones works closely with fellow veterans on benefits and health issues. Jones is a service officer with Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8973. Through his work with veterans and his time at the local clinic, Jones says the local system has a good reputation.
"Right now our urgent care office is open, so if you have something wrong with you right now and you need care, you can go to urgent care. It's not an emergency room, but you can see a doctor and you can get into the system and you can be treated," said Jones.
There are roughly 60,000 veterans enrolled in the regional VA health care system. Many of them are anticipating expanded services when the new VA Medical Center opens by the end of 2016. That medical center is currently under construction and it will reside in a new medical corridor in Mid City. For all of those concerned, the opening can't come sooner.