A Pasco veteran said he was told he had to wait more than eight months for an appointment at the Veterans Affairs clinic in Richland.
Michael D. Silvers, 66, asked to have an appointment set up because of problems he was having with his legs when he went in for flu and shingles shots in the winter.
"I'm getting the shakes like tremors," he told the Herald. "I can hardly walk."
He said he was told at the beginning of the year the earliest an appointment could be scheduled was September.
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"They don't give you a reason. They tell you the doctor's busy, only it's not a doctor; it's a physician's assistant," he said.
Walla Walla VA Director Brian Westfield said last week that the regional system didn't have any wait lists longer than 90 days.
Monday, he clarified to say that those figures referred to veterans who were just starting to take VA services and were setting up initial appointments. That wouldn't apply to Silvers, a longtime VA patient.
"If we could not make an appointment within 90 days, veterans go on an electronic wait list so they wouldn't get lost (in the system)," Westfield said.
Westfield wasn't familiar with Silvers' case, but said veterans in urgent need of care are supposed to be seen the day they ask for help. He planned look into the case and see if he could help Silvers.
"Our expectation is that the provider take care of them that day, or within the next seven days," he said. "If they have an urgent problem, they should be able to be seen."
Silvers, who served in the Navy from 1965-70, including time in Vietnam, planned to go back to the Richland clinic today to see what could be done, he said after being told of Westfield's remarks.
"I'll go over there and we'll see what happens," he said.
Almost 19 percent of Walla Walla VA schedulers were told to manipulate data on how long veterans wait for medical appointments, according to a nationwide audit of record-keeping at VA facilities. Another 12.5 percent said they tracked appointments outside the VA's official scheduling system.
The internal audit was launched after allegations that VA hospitals in Colorado and Arizona manipulated data and on how long patients wait to see doctors by keeping "secret wait lists" outside the VA's official scheduling system.
The Walla Walla VA has addressed scheduling problems for veterans who are enrolling in its system by having people who live near the Richland clinic, where more appointments are scheduled, come to see providers in less-populated Walla Walla, Westfield said.
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom