VA Finally agrees on Inadequate Mental-Health Care

29 Apr 2012

For years now, California veterans benefits lawyers, who frequently come across veterans returning home from combat with psychological issues, have insisted that the mental-health care services offered by the Veterans Health Administration are inadequate.  The agency has finally agreed that this is true.

The Inspector General recently released a report, which said that the Veterans Health Administration has not provided returning soldiers adequate mental health care services, and the Veterans Health Administration has not rejected the findings.  

The VA Office of Inspector General’s report is titled Veterans Health Administration Review of Veterans’ Access to Mental Health Care.  According to the report, the Veterans Health Administration does not provide reliable and effective methods for tracking evaluations of patients.  First-time patients are not being provided timely mental-health services, and very often, existing patients have to wait for more than 2 weeks after the desired date of care to access an appointment. 

According to the agency's policies, all first-time patients are eligible for an initial evaluation within 24 hours, and a more complex and detailed evaluation within 14 days from the date.  However, this is not happening in many cases. 

The Inspector General also found that the Veterans Health Administration was overstating its success in providing new and follow-up care to soldiers within 14 days. According to the Inspector General's report, roughly 49% of veterans who need mental health care have to wait at least 50 days before getting a full screening.  The report also finds that the VHA frequently does not follow procedures that are outlined in the directives, and therefore, the agency’s data is not very reliable.  The report blames shortage of mental health staff for many of these problems.

Last week, the Veterans Health Administration reported that it was increasing its mental health workforce by about 1,900 people.  California veterans benefits lawyers however believe that this announcement is likely a knee-jerk response to the Inspector General's report, which may not translate into any benefits for veterans.