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VA Puget Sound's Ballooning Wait List For Home Health Care

Department of Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs

The number of VA Puget Sound patients waiting for home health care soared over the space of six months, making the facility’s wait list the second longest in the nation.

That’s according to a report from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs Office of Inspector General.

Homemaker and home health aid through the VA are alternatives to nursing home care. The service provides in-home assistance for things like bathing and eating.

But according to the report, covering Sept. 15, 2014, and March 31, 2015, the wait list at VA Puget Sound rose from 31 to 365. Only the VA in Los Angeles had a larger wait list, with 408 patients.

According to the report, the national wait list for VA home and community-based services grew by nearly 50 percent. On March 31, more than 2,500 patients were waiting nationwide.

Five facilities, including Los Angeles and Puget Sound, accounted for more than half of that total. The others were in Northport, New York (255 patients); Salem, Virginia (171); and Portland, Oregon (157).

VA Puget Sound pointed to rapid growth in demand, with the number of veterans receiving these services hitting more than 1,600 this year, nearly triple the number in 2013. In a statement the hospital said it has had “to authorize services based on the urgency of the veteran’s needs.”

“We know our veterans need and want these services, and we are working hard to find ways to get the help they need given the funding and growth challenges we are experiencing,” said Kathryn Sherrill, chief of social work services for VA Puget Sound.

In a statement, the hospital said wait times for these services can fluctuate based on available money. Indeed, there were large changes in the wait lists in some cities covered in the VA report.

The investigation was requested by Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski after veterans in the Washington, D.C., area reported waiting more than a year for home health care services.

Investigators found that at least one veteran in the D.C. area died waiting for promised care.