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Why veterans are waiting to seek the health care they need

Long wait times in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system and having VA health insurance could be the reasons veterans are more likely to delay seeking necessary health care in comparison to the general population.

Researchers Doohee Lee of Marshall University and Charles E. Begley of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston analyzed data from a 2010-11 survey on delays in seeking health care. Veterans were among the 11,000 individuals surveyed nationwide.

Around 29 percent of veterans reported waiting to get the health care they needed. Only 17 percent of the general population reported the same. The study also found former service members with VA health insurance were 1.76 times more likely to delay getting necessary medical care than people with private health insurance. Fewer than 2 percent of survey respondents had VA coverage.

Veterans said they had trouble making phone appointments with VA doctors and finding transportation to medical facilities. The study results are in line with recent problems the VA has experienced. Investigations have uncovered long wait times for patients seeking health care and inappropriate scheduling practices at VA medical centers.

The researchers suggested the delay in seeking health care is most likely linked to VA access problems. “Access problems within the VA system may be creating disparities in care for this vulnerable and deserving population that need to be mitigated,” they said. The findings could have significant implications for future VA policies for decreasing health care delays among veterans.

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