A Texas congressman has polled veterans in his district about their experiences with the Department of Veterans Affairs there, and the results are disappointing.
Rep. Beto O'Rourke represents El Paso and is a member of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. For a second year, he polled veterans in his district to see if there is a perception of improvement as more focus is put on needs of the VA.
Illustrative of some of the suspicion the VA engenders from Congress, O'Rourke says his poll is a good way to gauge what he is being told in Washington with what is happening on the ground.
The results from his latest poll came out last week. He described them as "disappointing and unacceptable."
On average, it takes 77 days to see a primary or specialty care provider and 64 days to see a mental health provider. When it comes to mental health care, 34 percent of veterans are not able to get an appointment at all.
As a reflection of the disenchantment and, as a possible remedy, 82 percent of El Paso veterans said they do not care whether their health care is delivered at the VA or within the community, as long as it is timely.
The results were tabulated based on 1,108 completed surveys from a listing of 20,208 veterans within the district.
O'Rourke has long advocated that VA facilities like those in El Paso need to prioritize their care for veterans and make way for community-based resources if they are more efficient.
"This plan will address the consistent failure to provide for access to mental health care, a crisis for El Paso veterans who have come to realize that care delayed has become care denied," O'Rourke said in a statement.
O'Rourke's surveys have caught the eye of others in Congress. He is the author of the "Ask Veterans Act" (HR 1319), which requires independent surveys of veterans on access and quality of VA health care throughout the country. The bill is sponsored by both Republican and Democratic members, including Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn.