Last June, the Interim Report on waiting times issued by the VA Office of Inspector General revealed that the average waiting time for a first appointment at the Canandaigua VA Hospital near Rochester, NY is ten days longer the average waiting time at VA hospitals nationwide.
Last Wednesday, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D, Rochester) revealed that last year more than 170 veterans from the Rochester area were sent as far away as Albany by the VA to receive acute psychiatric care.
The Albany Stratton VA Medical Center is 207 miles east of the Canandaigua VA Medical Center, which is the VA Medical Center for the Rochester metropolitan area. That’s a 3 hour and 13 minute trip one way according to Google Maps.
But since Canandaigua is east of Rochester, the mileage and time that most of the veterans had to travel is actually higher.
The VA Medical Center in Albany is 226 miles east of the VA’s Rochester Outpatient Clinic on Westfall Road in Brighton, a suburb immediately south of the city of Rochester. That’s a 3 hour and 30 minute dive, one way.
For veterans who live in the western suburbs, such as Brockport, the VA Medical Center in Albany is 245 miles and a 3 hour and 48 minute dive, one way.
So you are looking at a full day trip to and from Albany for the veteran and his or her family and loved ones.
“That’s not acceptable. Our veterans need the best care, they need it close to home.”
Slaughter also said that having veterans and their families travel that far and for that long is too much to expect from their families, especially in a metropolitan area with an estimated 70,000 veterans, or roughly one out of every 15 residents.
Slaughter’ press conference was held at the Veterans Outreach Center in Rochester, the oldest community based veterans’ center in the country. The Veterans Outreach Center was founded in 1973 by Vietnam Veterans with the goal of being the nation’s best provider of community-centered supportive services for veteran families.
The Veterans Outreach Center has succeeded where the Department of veterans Affairs has failed.
Veterans Outreach Center’s executive director, Todd Baxter, who joined Slaughter at the press conference, said, “Just the fact that the VA has an ability or the inability to serve veterans here in the community and has to send them down the Thruway one way or the other is absolutely atrocious.”
To emphasize his point, Baxter mentioned a startling statistic that shows the drastic need for better mental health care for veterans: every day 22 American combat veterans commit suicide.
What makes the situation even worse in Rochester is that according to the Canandaigua VA Medical Center’s web site, the Canandaigua VA Medical Center is supposed to have a fully staffed and operational mental health unit.
The Behavioral Health Care Line at Canandaigua VA Medical Center serves Veterans in inpatient and outpatient settings to help them achieve a full and fulfilling life.
For those suffering from more serious mental health concerns, Intensive Outpatient Behavioral Health offers more contact and treatment time to overcome significant barriers. Intensive outpatient visits are scheduled as often as five days a week until less frequent treatment is appropriate.
So the question is: Why is he Canandaigua VA Medical Center sending hundreds of veterans to the Stratton VA Medical Center in Albany, more than 200 miles away?
It certainly seems like another example of totally incompetent leadership in the V.A.