- Associated Press - Monday, June 9, 2014

No patients are waiting more than 90 days for their initial medical appointments at Fargo’s VA facility, according to a nationwide Veterans Affairs Department audit released Monday.

The audit of 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics found that the North Dakota location was just one of nine VA health care systems with an electronic waiting list that did not extend past 90 days. The report shows that 144 people who enrolled in the Fargo system over the past 10 years have never received an appointment.

Dale Ronning, quartermaster and adjutant general of the North Dakota Veterans of Foreign Wars, said he hasn’t heard of any complaints about wait times from veterans in the state. The organization just held its 93rd annual convention in West Fargo this past weekend, and veterans in attendance thanked local VA officials for their efforts, he said.

“A lot of people stood in support of the Fargo VA,” Ronning said. “We just don’t have any of those problems here.”

The audit is the first nationwide look at the sprawling VA network after an uproar over reports two months ago of patients dying while awaiting appointments and of cover-ups at a VA center in Arizona. The national audit found more than 57,000 veterans have been waiting 90 days or more for their first VA medical appointments, and an additional 64,000 appear to have fallen through the cracks, never getting appointments after enrolling and requesting them.

Ronning said he’s thankful that North Dakota veterans have not had to deal with such issues.

“Our veterans our very fortunate to not have those kinds of problems,” he said.

The audit said a 14-day target for waiting times was “not attainable,” given growing demand for VA services and poor planning. It called the 2011 decision by senior VA officials setting it, and then basing bonuses on meeting the target “an organizational leadership failure.”

President Barack Obama accepted the resignation of the Veterans Affairs secretary, Eric Shinseki, on May 30 and is actively seeking someone to replace him after the leading candidate pulled out.


Follow Dirk Lammers on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/ddlammers

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