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LA County Sees Opportunity to Provide Care for Vets

A recent audit found that wait times for a first appointment at Los Angeles County-based VA facilities averaged 56 days.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors went on record Tuesday in support of legislation that would open the door for veterans to be treated by county doctors when they cannot get appointments at VA hospitals.

Supervisor Don Knabe called it an opportunity for the county to expand its relationship with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"With all the turmoil in the VA, I think this is a great opportunity for them to look outside the box," Knabe told Video News West, "(to) try to deal with organizations that are prepared to give the same kind of service they do, in a timely manner."

Congress has two bills pending—one passed by the House and the other by the Senate—authorizing care outside the VA when veterans face long wait times or live more than 40 miles from a VA facility.

The push for new rules was sparked by a national audit released last week that found that VA hospital staff manipulated records to hide long waiting times for medical care. The scandal led to the resignation of veterans affairs secretary Eric Shinseki and prompted a criminal inquiry by the FBI.

The audit found that wait times for a first appointment at Los Angeles-based VA facilities averaged 56 days. However, healthcare officials said there was no evidence of local data being falsified.

Knabe said he saw a chance for the county's system of hospitals and clinics to step in where the VA lacks resources and give veterans the attention they deserve.

Many veterans already rely on the county's health care system, according to Knabe. But those services are not currently reimbursed by federal funding.

"At the end of the day, what we need to do is be able to service those veterans, so they get the services they need in a timely manner," Knabe said.

He told Video News West that he thought the VA would be open to working with the county.

The VA Great Los Angeles Healthcare System provides care to 86,000 veterans, with more than 30,000 patient visits per week at a dozen sites through five counties in Southern California, according to a statement by the agency.

The supervisors directed the county CEO to evaluate pending legislation and report back in 30 days. The board will also send a letter to Congressional delegates expressing support for such legislation.

—City News Service

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