MOUNT CARMEL, Ohio – On the heels of a scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Clermont County veterans got to take their complaints straight to Senator Rob Portman Friday.
For more than an hour, Portman – who has already conducted town hall meetings in Columbus and Dayton – listened to veterans at the American Legion Post 72 in Mount Carmel.
At the meeting, Portman was given both positive and negative feedback about local VA clinics.
"You heard today some good things about the (Clermont County Veteran's Service Commission), which is the clinic here in Clermont County. You heard some mixed things about the Cincinnati VA (Medical Center),” he said. “As I said, I know some doctors and nurses who work there, very compassionate people who care about the veterans.”
A federal audit in June showed that five VA medical facilities in Ohio scheduled most of their patients for appointments within 30 days, and two of those sites were flagged for further review: Cincinnati and Cleveland.
The VA said more than 57,000 patients nationwide have been waiting three months or more for initial medical appointments at VA hospitals and clinics.
But an updated audit of 731 VA medical facilities released Thursday showed tens of thousands more veterans than previously reported have been forced to wait at least a month for medical appointments at VA hospitals and clinics.
Portman supports legislation to authorize a "choice card" for veterans to use for health services outside the VA system if they can't get an appointment in a reasonable time. It also provides that option for veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility.
Earlier this month, Portman visited a Columbus VA facility. He said VA problems such as lengthy waiting lists show the need for more accountability and efficiency.
Portman said it’s difficult to compare Cincinnati’s VA services to the rest of the country, but Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz is reviewing 42 sites in the U.S. – including an undisclosed clinic in Ohio.
Portman said Horowitz’s report is expected in August.