- Associated Press - Thursday, April 13, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The launch of an online portal revealed that Veterans Health Administration facilities across Tennessee still struggle with patient wait times.

The Tennessean (https://tnne.ws/2p0uYgp) reported the new Access and Quality in VA Healthcare site launched April 12. The tool lists average wait times by appointment type and satisfaction scores based on data released in February. The last time the VA released comparable data was in September 2014, after the agency’s head resigned following national attention about long wait times.

The data showed mixed results. While mental health wait times were significantly down in most of the 25 VA state facilities, centers continue to struggle with primary care appointment availability.

The Nashville VA Medical Center listed an average wait of 50 days for patients seeking primary care appointments, eight days longer than in September 2014.

In Murfreesburo, the Alvin C. York VA Medical Center had longer wait times for new patients seeking primary care appointments. Its average wait increased from 14 days in 2014 to 36 days in 2017. Wait times improved for those seeking mental health services, dropping from a 13-day average in 2014 to six days in 2017.

The center made headlines in 2016 after a 32-year-old Army National Guard veteran hanged himself on its campus after being expelled from a substance abuse treatment program.

The Murfreesboro and Nashville campuses scored in the bottom 10th percentile for mental health coverage among VA facilities in the nation in 2016.

Operation Stand Down is a support group that works with patients at the Nashville VA. John Krenson, the group’s executive director, said the data is not representative of all experiences, as some veterans have experienced little trouble procuring appointments, while others remain frustrated.

“Our reality is whatever that particular person experiences,” Krenson said. “It’s whatever that person experiences and you can’t change their mind.”

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Information from: The Tennessean, https://www.tennessean.com

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