Veterans Affairs Puget Sound will get $22 million over the next two years and plans to hire more than 120 additional medical personnel for specialties like mental health and geriatric care.
The money is part of more than $15 billion set aside by Congress to fund the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act. The bill is designed to help veterans access health care more quickly.
VA Puget Sound Director Michael Murphy said current wait times are too long: about 37 days for a new patient and seven days for a specialty patient.
“If this works as we hope it will, it should help us with our wait times, particularly with the new patient wait times, " Murphy said. "So if we’re able to successfully recruit and retain these individuals that should help us to drop that quite considerably.”
New primary care patients are the most difficult to schedule because there are fewer slots available.
If there's one thing Murphy thinks is missing from the bill, it’s money for non-institutional care. That includes services like home health aides and home care for veterans who need assistance with daily activities like bathing and getting dressed.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, a member and former chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said the funding is great news for veterans. “The VA has been struggling with access to care for far too long," Murray said. "This is a great step in the right direction, but there is still much more work to do.”
Earlier this week Portland's VA, which also serves vets in Vancouver, Washington, was awarded more than $33 million.