US & Canada

Many US veterans waiting three months for medical care

Image caption Much of the outrage has focused on care at Phoenix

More than 57,000 US military veterans have been waiting up to three months for medical appointments, according to a damning internal audit.

A complicated appointment process had sown confusion among scheduling clerks, the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) said in its review.

The audit of 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics comes amid uproar about the failing care system.

The Veterans Affairs chief resigned after a damning investigation.

Eric Shinseki stepped down at the end of May amid a national uproar after a report found veterans at an Arizona hospital waited on average 115 days for an initial appointment.

The former general pointed to a "lack of integrity" in the system, with some hospitals covering up the long delays.

Monday's report was the first nationwide since the furore began, and it revealed an additional 64,000 veterans have never had appointments after enrolling in the VA health care system over the past 10 years .

It also said 13% of VA schedulers said they were instructed to falsify appointment dates in order to meet targets.

Image caption Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson said the agency is working to regain trust

A 14-day goal to see first-time patients was unrealistic given the growing demand and poor planning, the audit concluded.

Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said the audit showed "systemic problems" that demand immediate action.

Last week, he said at least 18 Arizona veterans died while waiting for doctor appointments, although it remains unclear whether the wait was to blame for their deaths.

Senior US senators have agreed a package of measures aimed at addressing the problems that have engulfed healthcare for veterans.

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