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Hawaii has longest wait for new veteran patients

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 11:44 a.m. HST, Jun 09, 2014

Hawaii had the longest wait time in the nation for veterans to get their first appointment with a primary care physician, according to data released Monday by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

New patients in Hawaii wait an average of 145 days to get an appointment at the Spark M. Matsunaga VA Medical Center and its affiliated clinics on neighbor islands, according to the data.

Wayne Pfeffer, director of the VA Pacific Islands Health Care System, said the VA center is hiring additional clerks and nurses to give doctors more time to treat patients. They also plan to provide more evening hours and Saturday clinics, he said.

"Our goal is to have no waiting list," Pfeffer said. "We're trying to reduce our waiting time. We're hoping that as the new releases come out, we're looking better and better."

Wait times at the center are better for established patients. Excluding new patients, just 3 percent of Hawaii veterans waited more than 30 days for an appointment.

Hawaii resident Bryan Trumbower, a 32-year-old Army veteran, said he waited about six months for his first appointment with a primary care physician at the VA center.

"They tell you that when you sign up: 'It will be six months,'" Trumbower said.

Pfeffer said he did not know for sure whether the staff was telling patients it would be a six-month wait.

"For the most part, we're better than six months, but we try to give a realistic timeframe so they know what to expect," Pfeffer said. "We're working diligently to bring that down."

About a year ago, Trumbower was diagnosed with a sinus infection but had to wait five weeks to see a specialist for further treatment. It took three weeks of phone calls to get an appointment scheduled, and then there was a two-week wait for an appointment, Trumbower said.

"There's people out there dying on the list," Trumbower said.

The VA has contacted 50,000 veterans across the country to get them off of wait lists, said Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson.

"This excessive wait time is unacceptable," said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in a statement. "It is clear that the VA needs additional resources to match increasing demand for health services. Our veterans deserve better."



1. Honolulu, Hawaii: 145 days

2. VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend HCS, Harlingen, Texas: 85 days

3. Fayetteville, North Carolina: 83 days

4. Baltimore HCS, Maryland: 81 days

5. Portland, Oregon: 80 days

6. Columbia, South Carolina: 77 days

7. Central Alabama Veterans HCS, Montgomery, Alabama: 75 days

8. Providence, Rhode Island: 74 days

9. Salt Lake City, Utah: 73 days

10. Richmond, Virginia: 73 days



1. VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend HCS, Harlingen, Texas: 145 days

2. El Paso, Texas: 90 days

3. White City, Oregon: 88 days

4. Clarksburg, West Virginia: 86 days

5. St. Louis, Missouri: 86 days

6. Middle Tennessee HCS, Nashville, Tennessee: 71 days

7. Durham, North Carolina: 69 days

8. Hampton, Virginia: 68 days

9. Mountain Home, Tennessee: 67 days

10. VA Central Western Massachusetts HCS, Leeds, Massachusetts: 67 days



1. Durham, North Carolina: 104 days

2. Clarksburg, West Virginia: 96 days

3. Amarillo, Texas: 61 days

4. El Paso, Texas: 60 days

5. Erie, Pennsylvania: 57 days

6. Central Alabama Veterans HCS, Montgomery, Alabama: 57 days

7. White City, Oregon: 57 days

8. VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend HCS, Harlingen, Texas: 55 days

9. Hampton, Virginia: 54 days

10. Dallas, Texas: 50 days

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serious wrote:
You'll get no argument with me--180 days (new patient) and got called the day after the scandal broke.
on June 9,2014 | 09:03AM
Skyler wrote:
I thought it was 14 months... but whatever. No one should have to wait that long to see a physician, but civilian health care (Obamacare) patients also have the same issue: Too many people, too few doctors that take low-ball gov't. payments.
on June 9,2014 | 12:04PM
1local wrote:
transition veterans to Obama care...
on June 9,2014 | 12:29PM
false wrote:
Won't work. Private doctors are already overworked and are becoming selective as to new patients. Too many newlys from Obamacare, medicare, medicaid. The main problem is that VA doctors, nurses, admin are civil service employees and adhere to government regulations on hours, breaks, vacations, etc. When was the last time you saw an efficient government run office? Good enough for government work, eh?
on June 9,2014 | 06:47PM
Mythman wrote:
Vets. go the Tripler ER instead if waiting.
on June 9,2014 | 03:00PM
Yak02 wrote:
Again, get the Government/Military out of the healthcare business. Government is going to pay for healthcare for our Government workers anyway, they certainly aren't going to save money by performing and managing the services themselves. Patients should be able to go to the hospital they want to go to and see the healthcare specialist they want to see. Give the whole VA hospital system to private enterprise and let the survival of the fittest prosper. The patients will get better service for the money the government is spending.
on June 9,2014 | 09:16AM
glenn57377 wrote:
Isn't that what president obama promised in the first place? The obama administration likes to brag about how many people that did not have healthcare now have it. What he fails to mention is that MORE people that used to have it no longer have it or cannot afford it. We need a bad president as soon as possible to improve the current president. We need a pitiful Congress as soon as possible to improve the current Congress. There is a sector of Americans that allows this type of government to exist untethered......and it is going to take the real America to get busy and straighten this mess out. Every generation has a term coined for its contributions to our country....and for those responsible for this government.....all I can think of is the "stupidest generation."
on June 9,2014 | 10:58AM
droid wrote:
Obama has failed to accomplish a single campaign promise that mattered to me, so you’re preaching to the choir. Obamacare would only have worked with a “single-payer” system. As it is now, it’s a giveaway for the private insurance companies, so it hurts veterans (TriCare) the most. This failed compromise the prez reached with Congress, is the reason why Obamacare never existed prior to this point. The deal was doomed from day 1.
on June 9,2014 | 04:21PM
eoe wrote:
Right, like private insurance is so effective delivering care to the general population.
on June 9,2014 | 12:55PM
Dolphin743 wrote:
The overwhelming majority with private insurance are satisfied with their care. Meanwhile, health outcomes are the same or worse for people on Medicare than they are for those with no insurance.
on June 9,2014 | 03:29PM
droid wrote:
And don’t forget veterans. They have TriCare — which is even worse then Medicare — because at least Medicare can be administered by private companies. TriCare is pure, unfettered government incompetence.
on June 9,2014 | 04:24PM
Anonymous wrote:
Dolphin, I'm happy with my Medicare/Kaiser Senior Advantage. My copayments and labwork increased, and if I need to be hospitalized, I'll pay a bit more for the first 7 days. However, I'm very happy paying $Zero/month for Medicare coverage. I also kept my primary care phtsician. Thankfully, I don't need VA medical coverage.
on June 9,2014 | 08:50PM
Mythman wrote:
Survival of the Fittest? What, you missed the civil rights revolution and the civil rights act in 1964. That America is Gone With the Wind.
on June 9,2014 | 03:01PM
Uncleart66 wrote:
Anther broken promise ........Make Bernie Madoff look good.
on June 9,2014 | 09:17AM
Mythman wrote:
I heard AG Holder is going to pardon Bernie and put him in charge.
on June 9,2014 | 03:03PM
AhiPoke wrote:
THIS is what we can all expect when we're all under obamacare. Government healthcare doesn't work, period. BTW, I have a friend who spent two tours in Viet Nam and is has measured hearing loss. It's apparent to his private physician that his hearing loss is at least partially due to firing a rifle but he VA has refused to accept responsibility. What makes this interesting is that I also know of three other people with the same condition that have received benefits due to hearing loss. I think the VA ran out of money and changed there criteria to say "no". Healthcare rationing is on its way.
on June 9,2014 | 09:19AM
HanabataDays wrote:
We already ARE all under the ACA. Guess you overslept.
on June 9,2014 | 09:53AM
AhiPoke wrote:
While you're partially correct most of us especially here in Hawaii are still covered by private insurance. My point is, if the president is successful in placing us all under the same government run healthcare system, we're all going to suffer.
on June 9,2014 | 10:22AM
droid wrote:
HanabataDays — we are not ALL under the Affordable Care Act YET. If we were, they wouldn't be talking about shutting the State Health Connector down. ACA is being phased in and will not be completely implemented until 2020. A little research would do you some good.
on June 9,2014 | 04:29PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Wasn't there a story in the SA last week about there being no problems with Hawaii's VA hospital?
on June 9,2014 | 09:21AM
Charliegrunt wrote:
Exactly! That's what the SA article reported that the VA Pacific Islands investigator stated. So, you know they were lying to Shinseki. Has anyone heard of her being fired for making a false official report? Why not? Oh yeah, if the President can lie like hell, why not the people working for him?
on June 9,2014 | 09:51AM
droid wrote:
The lying by all these mid-level VA administrators is the reason all this happened in the first place. Heads should roll. There’s a bill making it's way through Congress to cut the red tape that hinders the VA’s ability to fire people. Too bad it comes too late to save Shinseki, but the retired Army general should have been on Capitol Hill lobbying for the bill years ago.
on June 9,2014 | 04:36PM
sayer wrote:
Yeah letting Shinseki go was a big mistake. He could have helped clean up this mess.
on June 10,2014 | 04:40AM
HanabataDays wrote:
So, the salient question is whether our wait times are the longest because we DIDN'T submit bogus statistics.
on June 9,2014 | 09:52AM
cojef wrote:
Wonder if anyone died!
on June 9,2014 | 10:10AM
Dolphin743 wrote:
Who says these stats are right?...I know I waited about 14 months for an initial appointment after retirement.
on June 9,2014 | 03:30PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Kauai boy Eric Shinseki sure took good care of his home state. A lot like another guy I could name.
on June 9,2014 | 10:33AM
Jerry_D wrote:
Yup...I just got accepted into VA about two months ago, and I'm still waiting for my initial appointment.
on June 9,2014 | 10:37AM
Mythman wrote:
Was called in on the carpet by my VA doc and warned I was taking up too much of her valuable time and so eating into the time of other vets.
on June 9,2014 | 03:05PM
Anonymous wrote:
Wait time itself doesn't say much. Maybe better to look at wait time divided by staff. A large number would suggest understaffing. A low number, people are fiddling their thumbs or worse at the particular center. Still having said that 100 days for someone with a mental health concern. . no wonder so many vets check themselves out while waiting to check in.
on June 9,2014 | 11:38AM
Skyler wrote:
Not acceptable at all.
on June 9,2014 | 11:51AM
FluidMotion wrote:
And people want government run healthcare?
on June 9,2014 | 01:31PM
AhiPoke wrote:
Actually, most don't. Unfortunately, our president wants to change our country to fit his image and government healthcare is part of his vision. Out president apparently believes big government will solve all problems.
on June 9,2014 | 02:27PM
droid wrote:
The president should have dumped ACA when the Republicans refused to include a single-payer option. Without that, Obamacare does more harm then good.
on June 9,2014 | 04:39PM
udabest wrote:
Shameful! Where are our VA supporting politicians now?
on June 9,2014 | 02:40PM
lokela wrote:
This is really sad. What they should do for now is outsource them to other hospitals. They deserve it.
on June 9,2014 | 05:06PM
Locokane wrote:
Privatize the VA at Tripler except for those with 50% or more service disability or those with prosthetics, PTSD, or severe medical issues. This is just the tip of the iceberg for this VA. They are not only very slow in providing medical care for veterans, but very slow in processing service connected claims with very poor review and the initial adjudication of claims. The VA needs a severe overhaul of leadership and staff.
on June 9,2014 | 05:10PM
americantaxpayer wrote:
If you think this is good news, just wait until we're all moved to a single payer government healthcare after Obamacare fails!
on June 9,2014 | 05:20PM
scooters wrote:
It took me 8 months on a standby waiting list before I finally got my appointment and it was only with a physician assistant. I never was never assigned a "Primary Physician". If I had not continued to call them, I'm sure that I would still be waiting.
on June 9,2014 | 05:42PM
samidunn wrote:
Just the beginning folks, wait till we are all on government healthcare.
on June 9,2014 | 06:25PM
Rickyboy wrote:
Big Mahalos to our current congretional delegation. It shows by your (in) actions just how much you care. Especially our noted veteran who served.
on June 9,2014 | 06:29PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
The VA should be treating only service related illness and injuries. That what it was meant to do in the beginning, that's the way it should return to. Who's going to wait 6 days much less 6 months to see a general practitioner? Active duty can go to Tripler, non active duty should go see a private doctor like everyone else unless their problem is service related. Problem solved!
on June 9,2014 | 07:01PM
soundofreason wrote:
And here we are AGAIN at the WRONG end of yet ANOTHER list.
on June 9,2014 | 07:21PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
This is what government red tape does: the only who could count on skipping all the way to the top of the line is our Punahou grad who occupies the White House. RHIP Rank Has Its Privileges. One thought comes to mind though ... what if a patient is an acute emergency? Does he/she go on that waiting list? The waiting exists everywhere though. It happened even to my mom because the emergency at Queen's was overwhelmed.
on June 9,2014 | 08:21PM
suecee wrote:
This is purely shameful.
on June 9,2014 | 08:32PM
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