VA deputy secretary spends day in Phoenix speaking to veterans in town hall setting

Dec 14, 2016, 5:04 AM
VA town hall (Sharon Mittelman/KTAR News)...
VA town hall (Sharon Mittelman/KTAR News)
(Sharon Mittelman/KTAR News)

PHOENIX — Veterans in Phoenix had a chance Tuesday afternoon to meet the some of the leaders in the Veterans’ Administration Health Care system in a town hall setting.

This was the fourth visit to Phoenix in four months by the VA’s deputy secretary Sloan Gibson.

Gibson said progress has been made since a scandal two and a half years ago that exposed inordinately long waits at Phoenix’s VA hospital, some of which proved to be deadly.

“When you look at outpatient completed appointments when you look at episodes of care, telephone, telehealth, tele-mental health, all of these, what you see is a vast increase in access to care and the volume of care that’s being provided,” Gibson said.

Gibson spent Tuesday in Phoenix talking to staff and to veterans. He said the challenge remains to make sure no veteran falls through the cracks.

“We’re going to keep streamlining processes, allocating resources, making sure we that we got the right resources doing the right work,” Gibson said.

Gibson said he’s working to find areas to improve.

The newest director of the Phoenix VA Medical Center also talked to veterans at yesterday’s town hall. Rima Nelson said she is hopeful that past problems there will be resolved.

“Any wait time for veterans is not acceptable,” Nelson said.

Nelson has been heading up Phoenix’s troubled VA hospital for a little more than two months. She said the situation at the hospital when she arrived was much better than she had expected.

“Past leadership, whether they were acting or permanent, had already put in place many plans to correct processes, systems, and to expand our capacity to care,” Nelson said.

Nelson said the improvements include adding new space, more providers and looking at systems and understanding why they were not working.

One of the greatest challenges she mentioned is making things easier for veterans who opt for care outside the VA system. The goal is to make that transition seamless, so that, “the burden is not on the veteran, and they’re not caught up in this paperwork and regulatory process that is frustrating for all of us.”

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VA deputy secretary spends day in Phoenix speaking to veterans in town hall setting