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A New Raleigh VA Clinic Will Speed Care

The Department of Veterans Affairs has been under warranted criticism for long wait times at its hospitals and clinics, a crisis that led President Obama to change leadership at the VA. In North Carolina, a new VA clinic in Raleigh should alleviate at least some of the long-term problems with care experienced by our veterans.

America rallies when veterans are in need. And America grows angry when those vets are not getting the care they have earned. Some of the criticism is misplaced. Most veterans give high marks to the care they receive. Delivering that quality care is difficult given the relatively low pay of VA doctors and the high volume of patients. The problem comes with the delays before veterans are treated.

Under new Secretary Robert A. McDonald, the VA has tried to be more responsive on a national level, and the signs are positive. Hes reduced the weeks-long wait timesstepped up mental health care. The new clinic coming to Raleigh reflects the departments increased responsiveness.

Demands on the VA have increased dramatically with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Veterans with profound wounds now are surviving those injuries but with far more complicated medical needs to help them function. The VA has had to adapt by adding more specialized care and by taking advantage of medical research.

There also are more veterans in need of, and thankfully seeking, mental health care. Suicide rates among veterans are much higher than the rates in the civilian population. Even now, Congress is moving ahead with legislation to focus more attention on the issue.

The new Raleigh clinic will be the third outpatient facility in the city and the second to provide much-needed mental health care.

There is no question of need. The VA treated more than 12,000 unique patients at the two clinics that now exist in the fiscal year that ended Oct. 1. That represents a stunning 19 percent increase in the past two years.

Almost 15 percent of the appointments at those clinics were made more than 30 days in advance. Thats almost twice the length of wait times for the excellent Durham VA hospital and more than twice the national average. Its unacceptable. Just as unacceptable is the 21-day wait for a primary care appointment in Raleigh.

Not only are there more veterans of Americas most recent and long-term wars seeking help, but North Carolina, with multiple military facilities, has a large number of retired military residents.

The good news, at least, is that a new clinic, with five teams to provide patient care, will see 3,600 additional patients.

The Durham VA Medical Center, close to Duke Universitys medical facilities, sees patients from 27 counties, and those who are under its watch believe theyre getting good and compassionate care from the doctors and other personnel there. The Durham VA also watches over eight other medical facilities, including a dialysis clinic and rehab clinic for the blind in Raleigh.

The good news in Raleigh, and elsewhere in the United States following that shakeup in leadership, shows that the nations leaders are taking veterans care seriously and with a sense of urgency. When it comes to taking care of the men and women who risked their lives, and in many cases suffered life-changing injuries in the course of taking those risks, there is no good excuse for anything less than excellence.




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