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Cornyn, Cruz want VA to account for longer wait times

Cornyn: It's a real crisis in San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO – U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas have succeeded in getting the Senate to pass an amendment requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs to account for longer wait times, more than a year after a national scandal exposed similar delays.

“It’s a real crisis here in San Antonio in particular,” Cornyn said.

In a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald, Cornyn and Cruz described how as of Oct. 1, more than one-fifth of all appointments involved 30-day wait times or longer at the South Texas Veterans Healthcare System.

“We are left to conclude that this data foreshadows an impending access to care problem,” the letter read in part.

Their legislation would require the VA secretary to provide Congress with a plan in a month’s time on how to address those delays.

The amendment attached to the Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs Appropriations bill unanimously passed the Senate Tuesday.

After a Veterans Day ceremony at Fort Sam Houston, Cornyn said, “It’s embarrassing, frankly, because we’re here honoring veterans today that we’ve made a solemn commitment the health care will be there for them.”

Cornyn said he blames the VA bureaucracy for the problems.

Congress passed the Choice Act to help shorten wait times by allowing veterans to seek private health care.

“Unfortunately, the VA has said you can’t do that until you actually see a physician,” Cornyn said. “It strikes me as just undermining the whole purpose to actually have a VA doctor approve someone being able to see an independent third party physician or healthcare provider.”

However in a statement by the South Texas Veterans Healthcare System, spokeswoman Nenette Madla said that statement is not accurate.

"If the wait is greater than 30 days, then the veteran can make an earlier appointment in the community, without having been seen at the VA," Madla said.

She said if the veteran elects to receive care in the community, the VA appointment is canceled and used for another veteran.