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Durham VA director speaks out about wait times

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Durham VA Director DeAnne Seekins talked to WNCN Investigates about wait times. Durham VA Director DeAnne Seekins talked to WNCN Investigates about wait times.
DURHAM, N.C. -

The Durham VA management is opening up for the first time about how long veterans have to wait to receive care at its nine facilities in North Carolina.

On Friday, Durham VA Director DeAnne Seekins talked to WNCN Investigates about wait times. This comes just weeks after two employees were put on administrative leave for allegations of “questionable scheduling practices.”

Many veterans have contacted WNCN Investigates with stories about dealing with excessively long wait times and canceled appointments. Overall, they said the care they receive is great, but getting to that care in a timely manner is a major problem.

The VA’s goal is to see new patients within 14 days.

As of April, 28 percent of patients were seen within that time.

The Durham VA’s goal is 47 percent.

Currently the VA tells us 64 veterans will wait more than 90 days for care, and another 32 haven’t been able to schedule an appointment at all.

Seekins said the current wait time for new patients is 34 days.

In April of last year, the average wait time was 65 days.

“I acknowledge that the aspirational goal that the VA has set is not always accomplished, that we're not always able to achieve that, however the current wait time of 34 days is comparable to private sector,” said Seekins.

She saids the Durham VA hired 110 new primary care staff members last year, but she is not happy with the current average wait time.

“We’ll continue to hire staff, we’ll continue to use non-VA referral,” Seekins added.

None of the management staff would comment on VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation.

Seekinssaid none of the allegations of employees cooking books or purposefully mismanaging scheduling were true, but would not comment on the two employees put on leave.

“I am confident we have functioned with the highest integrity, the highest of ethics, and we have not compromised our values,” said Seekins. “The veteran is first.”

She said despite the controversy, she hopes veterans will trust that the VA is still the best place for them to receive care. She said any veterans with issues should call the Patient Advocate’s office.

The Durham VA is being investigated by the federal government with auditors examining the facilities wait times for the past several years.

The results of that audit are expected in late August.

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

Jonathan Rodriguez

Jonathan Rodriguez is an investigative reporter and member of the WNCN Investigates team. His storytelling specialty is connecting the dots to get to the truth, with a goal of delivering results for our community. If you have something you’d like WNCN to investigate, contact Jonathan.

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