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Veterans Affected by Scandal May Seek Private Care

Physician shortage seen as contributing factor to VA waiting list scandal

FRIDAY, June 6, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The recent scandal at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may lead to more veteran visits to private physicians and community health centers, according to an article published June 2 in Medical Economics.

The author of the article, Chris Mazzolini, writes that legislation to be introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, would allow veterans affected by the VA's waiting list scandal to seek care with private physicians and community health centers. Other components of the bill include giving the VA the authority to lease new health facilities in several states and to use emergency funding to hire more physicians and other providers.

According to Mazzolini, a contributing factor to the VA scandal and long wait times is the physician shortage. The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts the physician shortage will reach more than 20,000 by 2020. The VA Office of the Inspector General's report from May 28, 2014, found the average wait time for an initial primary care appointment in Phoenix, the epicenter of the scandal, was 115 days.

"Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are interested in finding solutions to the VA's problems that involve allowing veteran patients better access to care, including outside of the traditional VA framework," Mazzolini writes.

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