Obama Urged to Allow Veterans to Use Private Doctors to Cut Wait

Jun 10, 2014 6:53 pm ET

June 10 (Bloomberg) -- Veterans facing long wait times for health care at government hospitals should have access to private doctors, the American Medical Association said today.

The AMA, the largest doctor’s group in the U.S., voted at its annual meeting in Chicago to ask President Barack Obama to give veterans access to private-sector health providers until a backlog at the Veterans Administration is reduced. More than 57,000 veterans waited longer than 90 days for an initial appointment at VA medical centers, according to an audit released yesterday.

The VA secretary, Eric Shinseki, resigned May 30 after the department’s inspector general reported that delays and inappropriate management, including secret waiting lists, were a systemic problem in the agency. Legislation proposed in the Senate June 6 would give veterans access to private hospitals and doctors if they live 40 miles from VA health centers or can’t get an appointment within about two weeks.

“The AMA believes that all Americans should have access to health care, especially those who bravely serve our country,” Robert M. Wah, the group’s incoming president, said in a statement. “Our nation’s physicians can and should be a part of the solution to this national crisis to ensure America’s veterans get access to the care they need and deserve.”