DeKalb County

New bill would require VA to improve wait times as some patients go months without appointments

DECATUR, Ga. — In a bipartisan push to improve conditions for America’s veterans, Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff and Florida Sen. Rick Scott want to require the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve wait times.

A new bill just introduced by Georgia US Senator Jon Ossoff would require the US Department of Veterans Affairs to set and meet targets for wait times to get appointments with VA doctors.

“What they’re doing now is not working,” Ossoff told Channel 2 Consumer Investigator Justin Gray.

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The new bill, the SCHEDULES Act of 2024 is bipartisan and co-written by Florida Republican Senator Rick Scott.

Channel 2 Action News has investigated the issue for years at the Atlanta VA Medical Center in DeKalb County. .

“Right now, the VA sets targets and it’s an administrative matter. If and when this legislation becomes law, it will be a requirement in statute that they set specific targets and that they report consistently whether they’re meeting them,” Ossoff said.

Gray checked wait times right now in metro Atlanta for key specialties.

It’s 45 days for a new patient primary care appointment at the Atlanta VA Medical Center. It’s currently a 71-day way at the Gwinnett VA Clinic. And 107 days in Cobb.

The wait for a pain medicine new patient appointment is 65 days. And for oncology, for a new cancer patient, it’s currently a 59-day wait for a first appointment.


“Clinically, when you’re talking about something like cancer and the impact on mental health of going weeks or months, recognizing you may have a cancer diagnosis, but being unable even to get in to see the doctor about it imposes a huge burden,” Ossoff added.

For several years, Channel 2 Action News has reported on wait time concerns at the Atlanta VA.

In 2021, we told you how a cancer patient died after waiting more than 6 months for a colonoscopy after an initial screening showed signs of colon cancer.

Then in 2022, we uncovered how for many key specialties wait times in Atlanta were significantly longer than the national average.

In addition to the normal wait times, it’s noteworthy that the Joseph Maxwell Cleland Atlanta VA Medical Center Channel 2 Action News reported in December that there had been a pipe break over Thanksgiving, causing damage to the facility and closing multiple units and departments, including radiology and intensive care, among others, impacting appointment times.

Atlanta VA told Channel 2 Action News in a statement, “We are constantly working to improve, and that means taking steps to provide veterans with high-quality health care as quickly as possible – whether that’s at VA or in the community we appreciate the oversight of our congressional partners like Senator Ossoff.”

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