The trouble at the federal Department of Veterans Affairs has been front-page news for weeks. At the heart of the scandal are reports of inexcusably long wait times for veterans seeking treatment. Last month, the VA conducted an internal audit to gauge its scope and found more than 57,000 veterans were forced to wait 90 days or more for their first VA medical appointment, and 64,000 veterans never got an appointment after requesting one.
The audit said wait times at Massachusetts VA hospitals and clinics are among the shortest. In fact, the VA hospital in Bedford was singled out for having the shortest wait time in the nation, at an average of just 12 days.
Still, in June, the Bedford VA Hospital sent a letter to Douglas Chase, a veteran from Acton, offering him the medical care he’d requested to treat his brain cancer. The problem was the letter arrived two years after his death and was opened by Chase’s wife, Suzanne.
Coleman Nee, the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services, joined the conversation.
The Bedford VA Medical Center sent Greater Boston the following statement:
We deeply regret any further pain experienced as a result of the letter sent to Mrs. Chase. The Acting Director at the Bedford VA spoke with Mrs. Chase and apologized for the error. Our Patient Advocate is working with Mrs. Chase to ensure that she is in contact with the Veterans Benefits Administration and the National Cemetery Administration to address funeral and other benefits outside the scope of services at Bedford VA.
At the Bedford VAMC, our most important mission is to provide the high quality health care and benefits Veterans have earned and deserve. Our letter was generated as a result of our efforts to reach out to all Veterans in our community who were not actively engaged in VA care. When issues or concerns are brought to us by Veterans, their family, or our stakeholders, they are treated as opportunities for us to critically look at that input, and take every action necessary to improve the work we do.
Our mission remains focused to provide the world-class health care our Veterans have earned through their service to our nation.