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Rieckhoff Statement on VA Waittimes

In response to a statement made by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald Comparing VA wait times to Disneyland, Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) issued the following statement:

Sec. McDonald clearly chose his words poorly. But he remains a dedicated leader for veterans and a reliable partner for all VSOs.

As illustrated this week in the release of IAVA’s Annual Membership Survey, the reality is that VA continues to be a very mixed bag for veterans. Any emphasis on the high quality of care by anyone must go hand-in-hand with a recognition that poor access to care has impacted too many veterans’ lives nationwide for far too long. That’s the ground truth we see at IAVA every day.

Highlights from our Member Survey about the VA include:

VA Health Care

  • 47% reported a good or very good overall experience with VA health care.
  • 24% think the VA is doing a good job on mental health; down from 38% in 2014.
  • 31% would refer a friend to the VA.
  • 54% were not familiar with the VA Choice Card program.

VA Disability Backlog

  • 79% reported waiting over 125 days to be notified of the VA claim decision.
  • 56% reported waiting over 125 days to be notified of the VA appeal decision.
  • 61% felt a financial impact while waiting on a clam.

True VA reform must be a team effort. And a failure to achieve more progress after the VA scandal is the fault of both parties and all leaders–many of whom were at the helm before and during the scandal themselves. Sec McDonald can only succeed with the full support of Congress and the White House. According to our Member Survey, none of them are doing a very good job.

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IAVA will continue to work with the Secretary and all stakeholders to reform VA to meet the expectations of our members: an integrated system of high quality and accessible care.

Rather than spending precious days playing a game of gotcha in an already shortened Congressional calendar, all our political leaders should be focused on bi-partisan solutions to help veterans. It would be extremely helpful if same Members of Congress now fanning the flame on a debate about poorly chosen words were as vocal and passionate about the attack on veterans happening right now in their own house—a $3.4B cut to the landmark Post-9/11 GI Bill. Unfortunately, on that issue, too many are still AWOL. As illustrated at www.DefendTheGIBill.org.

Note to media: Email press@iava.org or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. As a non-profit founded in 2004, IAVA’s mission is to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans. Celebrating its 12th year anniversary, IAVA has connected more than 1.2 million veterans with resources and community, and provided more than 7,300 veterans with personalized support from IAVA’s Master’s level social workers.