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VA Health Centers Across The Southwest Tagged For Further Review

A nationwide review of more than 730 Veteran’s Affairs medical facilities was released on Monday. The audit showed that more than 57,000 veterans have been waiting at least 90 days to see a VA clinician.

The report took a wide-ranging look at wait time data and scheduling policies at more than 730 VA medical facilities.

The largest wait time numbers were found among new patients waiting for a specialist appointment. The El Paso, Texas, facility reported the longest wait in the region, with an average of 90 days, followed by Albuquerque’s VA medical center where patients waited about 57 days for their first appointment.

New patient waits for primary care physicians were slightly better in the Southwest. Some of the longest times were found in Arizona, where patient waits topped 55 days in Phoenix and Prescott.

In a statement, Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson says the findings reveal “systemic problems” that need to be addressed immediately.

Overall, veterans groups are happy to see the information released. But Dan Caldwell with Concerned Veterans for America said the numbers can’t be completely trusted.

"This is an agency that has a serious issue with telling the truth," said Caldwell. "That’s why I’ve said that with this report coming out, while it does confirm that a lot would be believed, the VA can’t be completely trusted to audit itself, and, in fact, the situation might be a lot worse."

In the Southwest, several VA medical centers were tagged for further review after this investigation, including facilities in Las Vegas; Prescott, Ariz.; and  Albuquerque.

Carrie Jung Senior Field Correspondent, Education Desk Carrie Jung began her public radio career in Albuquerque, N.M., where she fell in love with the diverse cultural scene and unique political environment of the Southwest. Jung has been heard on KJZZ since 2013 when she served as a regular contributor to the Fronteras Desk from KUNM Albuquerque. She covered several major stories there including New Mexico's Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage and Albuquerque's failed voter initiative to ban late-term abortions. Jung has also contributed stories about environmental and Native American issues to NPR's Morning Edition, PRI's The World, Al Jazeera America, WNYC's The Takeaway, and National Native News. She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's in marketing, both from Clemson University. When Jung isn't producing content for KJZZ she can usually be found buried beneath mounds of fabric and quilting supplies. She recently co-authored a book, "Sweet And Simple Sewing," with her mother and sister, who are fabric designers.