Tag Archives: medical

New VA medical appointment wait-time data converted to spreadsheet

By SB Anderson

VA Audit SheetWe converted the PDF “access audit” report released by the VA today detailing medical appointment wait-times at Veterans Heath Administration facilities into a spreadsheet so you can sort and analyze the data. You can find, and download, the data file here

(NOTE: Data errors in some cells are possible in cut and paste from original PDF document. Please check your individual data against that document. Link above).

Local veteran survey shows sharply different views, experience than what VA says

By SB Anderson

As the nation’s veterans medical care coverage issues rapidly become more and more of a local focus, you may want to consider ways to canvass as many of your local/regional veterans as possible.

One option, albeit a potentially expensive one: an online and phone survey with a sound methodology that will yield scientifically confident results.

That is what one congressman’s office in El Paso did, and the results released this week challenge in some cases the party line from the Veterans Administration. As USA Today recounted on Wednesday:

More than a third of veterans surveyed in the district of Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, said they were unable to get mental health care appointments at the VA. Forty-three percent said they put off therapy because of trouble seeing a counselor, and veterans said it took more than three months to be seen on average.

This differed sharply from what the VA reported for El Paso, O’Rourke said. The agency told him that 85% to 100% of veterans were provided mental health appointments within 14 days.

“The best way to determine how the VA is doing is to ask the veterans themselves,” O’Rourke said in a release about the survey his office undertook in May. That’s a light-bulb moment for journalists, as well.

The survey used as its base a list of 19,000 names of veterans within the district. (On the Beat is trying to track down whether those names were obtained as public records, and from whom, or were from a proprietary vendor database. Haven’t heard back from O’Rourke’s office yet). Those names were matched against a vendor’s phone and e-mail list.

The bulk of the surveys were completed online (503) after e-mail contact; a smaller number (189) were taken by telephone. The margin of error for all respondents is believed to be just under four percentage points in either direction.

Highlights of the findings, taken from O’Rourke’s summary report:

  • Nearly 2 in 5 who attempted to schedule a mental healthcare appointment were unable to obtain one.
  • An average of 71 days elapsed between a request for an appointment and seeing a mental health care provider.
  • About 3 in 4 veterans requesting an appointment with a mental health care provider waited more than 14 days to see one.
  • An average of 85 days elapsed between a veteran’s request for a routine care (non-mental health) appointment and seeing a health care provider.
  • About 7 in 10 requesting a non-mental health care appointment waited more than 14 days to see a provider.
  • About 1 in 3 were either very unsatisfied or unsatisfied with quality of non-mental health care at the El Paso VA.

Local data available on VA painkiller scripts

By SB Anderson

CIR painkiller data availableThe Center for Investigative Reporting is now making available for download its local database on prescriptions for four opiates that the VA has been dispensing at a rate three times higher than it was at the turn of the century.

Prescriptions for four opiates – hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone and morphine – have surged by 270 percent in the past 12 years, according to data CIR obtained through the Freedom of Information Act,” CIR reported last Fall. “CIR’s analysis for the first time exposes the full scope of that increase, which far outpaced the growth in VA patients and varied dramatically across the nation.”

Key  links:

Combat deployments not a major factor in suicide risk, new study suggests

By SB Anderson

While military suicides have risen to record numbers in recent years, combat deployments are not a major risk factor contributing to them, a new study published in Journal of the American Medical Association reports.

Men with depression, manic disorder or alcohol abuse issues were at greater risk, the study of 83 suicide cases from 2001 to 2008 showed.

‘The findings from this study are not consistent with the assumption that specific deployment-related characteristics, such as length of deployment, number of deployments, or combat experiences, are directly associated with increased suicide risk,” the report says. “Instead, the risk factors associated with suicide in this military population are consistent with civilian populations, including male sex and mental disorders.”

The authors concede that because their analysis only includes data through 2008, “we did not capture suicides in the most recent time period when the rates were the highest. However, the study did include the 3 years with the sharpest statistically significant increases in suicides.”

“It is possible that the cumulative strain of multiple and lengthy deployments only began to be reflected in suicide rates toward the later stages of the conflicts, although the overall evidence points to the lack of any specific deployment-related effects.”

The study was funded by the Department of Defense.

The New York Times has a good summary of the study’s findings, as well as feedback. The full paper is embedded below.

1 in 10 U.S. veterans don’t have medical insurance; highest rates of uninsured in the West

By SB Anderson

Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Louisiana and Oklahoma have the highest percentage of military veterans who don’t have health insurance, with Montana’s rate of 17.3% the highest, a new report says. 

The lowest percentage of the uninsured non-elderly veterans live in Massachusetts (4.3% state rate), Hawaii, Vermont,  North Dakota and Connecticut.

All told 1.3 million veterans — 10.5% — and 940,000 family member don’t have insurance, according to the report from the Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (Download PDF).  That compares to about 18% for all U.S. residents.  Younger, single, less-educated veterans with fewer ties to the workplace tend to be more likely to not have insurance.

The report is based on 2010 data.

The federal Affordable Care Act could help increase coverage, the report suggests. “We estimate that nearly half of uninsured veterans would qualify for expanded Medicaid  coverage. Another 40 percent of uninsured veterans  could potentially qualify for subsidized coverage through  health insurance exchanges if they do not have access to affordable employer coverage.” The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to release its decision this week related to a key provision of the act.

Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center has a summary of the report’s findings

New name for PTSD could mean less stigma

By SB Anderson

Washington Post: “Military officers and psychiatrists are embroiled in a heated debate over whether to change the name of a condition as old as combat. The potential new moniker: post-traumatic stress injury.”

Why? “Military officers and some psychiatrists say dropping the word “disorder” in favor of “injury” will reduce the stigma that stops troops from seeking treatment. “No 19-year-old kid wants to be told he’s got a disorder,” said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who until his retirement in February led the Army’s effort to reduce its record suicide rate.”

Psychiatrists studying the potential name change are holding a public hearing today in Philadelphia.

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