It's primary election day here in Waltham, and as in Inspector for Ward 1, Precinct 2, I'll be off to get the polls open in mere minutes.
But I will leave this for you to ponder. VA only filling half of its medical appointments while veterans wait for weeks
Internal Department of Veterans Affairs data provided by whistleblowers reveals the agency is only filling about half of its capacity to make medical appointments, even as veterans continue to wait an average of at least 30 days before a medical appointment can be scheduled.
The VA documents show that between July and September of 2017, the agency only used 51.44 percent of the appointments available across its healthcare system.
VA documents also show there are currently 184,520 veterans across the nation waiting longer than 30 days for an appointment and more than 45,000 new veteran patients waiting more than 90 days. Internal VA documents also indicate 479,239 veterans nationwide are waiting for physician requested follow-up appointments over 30 days for the period July to September 2017.
The VA says its times have improved over the last few years.
"The wait time for all VA clinics from the date the veterans first requests an appointment to the date when the appointment is completed has decreased from 19 days to 17 days since 2014," according to VA spokesperson Curt Cashour.
But in clinics around the country, the VA's ability to use all of its available appointment time is still lagging.
In Iowa, the VA's clinic utilization averaged just over 41 percent while between ten to twelve thousand appointments remained unfilled each of those months. Even while thousands of appointments remained unused, there were 1,291 veterans waiting more than 30 days for an appointment and at least 82 waiting longer than 90 days.
One can only wonder if this is related?Suicide among U.S. military veterans higher in certain states
WASHINGTON -- Suicide among military veterans is especially high in the western U.S. and rural areas, according to new government data that show wide state-by-state disparities and suggest social isolation, gun ownership and access to health care may be factors.
The figures released Friday are the first-ever Department of Veterans Affairs data on suicide by state. It shows Montana, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico had the highest rates of veteran suicide as of 2014, the most current VA data available. Veterans in big chunks of those states must drive 70 miles or more to reach the nearest VA medical center.
The suicide rates in those four states stood at 60 per 100,000 individuals or higher, far above the national veteran suicide rate of 38.4.
The overall rate in the West was 45.5. All other regions of the country had rates below the national rate.
Other states with high veteran suicide rates, including West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky, had greater levels of prescription drug use, including opioids. A VA study last year found veterans who received the highest doses of opioid painkillers were more than twice as likely to die by suicide compared to those receiving the lowest doses.
The latest VA data also reaffirmed sharp demographic differences: Women veterans are at much greater risk, with their suicide rate 2.5 times higher than for female civilians. Among men, the risk was 19 percent higher among veterans compared to civilians. As a whole, older veterans make up most military suicides -- roughly 65 percent were age 50 or older.
"This report is huge," said Rajeev Ramchand, an epidemiologist who studies suicide for the RAND Corp. He noted that the suicide rate is higher for veterans than non-veterans in every single state by at least 1.5 times, suggesting unique problems faced by former service members. "No state is immune."
And so I'm off to the polls. Primaries are a little more freeform than the general election, but I've you've got one going on in your neck of the woods, make sure you vote today, mmmkay?