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With New Veterans Bill Signed, Pocan Talks VA Hospital, System

Hospital Officials Say They Need More Space

Hospital hallway
Ralf Heß (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan toured Madison’s veterans hospital on Monday, just days after President Barack Obama signed a new bill designed to reduce patient wait times and improve care at facilities across the country.

The $16-billion bill provides money to hire and train more doctors and allow some patients to get care at private clinics. It’s designed to reduce long wait times across the country.

A review found the Madison VA had a wait time of 51 days to see a primary-care doctor, but Pocan calls that assessment misleading.

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“The only statistic that came out in the initial report that had an extended wait time was for someone coming into system for the first time,” he said. “And they did have a surge since the first the year — over double the amount of people coming in as first — but when you actually looked at it in normal way of tracking it, it was actually 25 days.”

The bill also allows veterans to seek care at private clinics if they’ve waited at least a month or live 40 miles from a VA hospital. This issue was hotly debated during passage of the bill. Pocan said some Democrats feared it might lead to privatization of the VA.

“It’s really important that we keep the veterans system strong,” he said. “Because there were some during this debate who wanted to privatize and send all the money out in the community, and that would be a mistake.”

The veterans bill also provides money for expansion of facilities. VA hospital officials in Madison said that they need more space.