Wait times at Veterans Affairs medical centers continue to be an issue. Here are a few tips to help save you time and energy as you manage your way through the VA.
- Schedule your appointment first thing in the morning or right after lunch. Many doctors, outside of the VA, are bound by quotas and have to see as many patients as possible. VA doctors focus on quality instead of quantity. Because of this, they tend to run over scheduled times. Making an appointment for either first thing in the morning all but guarantees that you’ll be seen on time.
- Have a referral to a specialty clinic? Schedule that appointment yourself! Don’t wait around for the clinic to call you, this could take a while. Sometimes the VA just automatically schedules you for your appointment, but you can always take control of this. Ask the physician or nurse for the number to the clinic. You can either call or go there in person and let them know you have a referral and set up an appointment time that works best for you.
- Ask for an appointment tomorrow. According to the VA, the majority of veterans receive their appointments within 14 days of the desired date. That’s a rather odd statement because when was the last time you were asked and not told when you could have your appointment? It never hurts to ask for a specific appointment time and from what I hear, it works a good amount of times too.
- Use MyHealtheVet secure messenger to talk to your physician. Need an appointment? Just have a question? Need to check your appointment schedule? Want to refill your meds? You can do all of this by downloading the VA’s MyHealtheVet app. Every VA facility has a coordinator who can help you with any issues that come up with the app and most staff can help you if you have a technical problem. If you haven’t tried this yet, from what I hear it’s a game changer!
- Choose a different VA. You have the right to go to any VAMC you choose. If you don’t like the one closest to you, try another one. You can use the VA’s Access to Care site to check wait times for all VA facilities. And this breaks down into types of care too.
- Go to the emergency room if you need anything. If you can’t wait, use the emergency room at the VAMC closest to you. If they can’t help you, they’ll at least get a referral in for you. This isn’t something you should do every time you need to see a doctor! But if your condition is getting worse, go get help!
- Use the kiosks. You can check in for an appointment or look for future ones by using one of these kiosks. They are in VAMC’s and outpatient clinics. Most facilities have staff that will show you how they work. Soon you’ll even be able to pay your copay through one as well! The kiosk will even tell you if you’re in the right place or not.
- Prepare and double check! Show up with a list of questions written out. Check them off as you go over each one with your doctor. Take notes and then verify that the physician did enter the referrals if any are needed.
- Have a problem? Tell someone about it! Every VAMC has quarterly town hall meetings that you can attend. These meetings are held specifically so you can talk to leadership and give feedback. The majority of VA employees want to help you so let them!