President Barack Obama, center, and Vice President Joe Biden, left, walk with Procter and Gamble executive Robert McDonald, Obama's nominee as the next Veterans Affairs secretary, from the Department of Veterans Affairs back to the White House in Washington, Monday, June 30, 2014. If confirmed by the Senate, McDonald would succeed Eric Shinseki, the retired four-star general who resigned last month as the scope of the issues at veterans' hospitals became apparent. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

VA says patient access to medical care improving

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Department of Veterans Affairs says it has reached out to nearly 140,000 veterans in the past two months to get them off waiting lists and into clinics for medical appointments.

Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson revealed the number Thursday as the VA released new audit figures showing improved patient access at 731 VA hospitals and clinics nationwide.

The audit of patient access information is the third released by the VA in the past month as the agency responds to a national outcry over reports of patient deaths and treatment delays at VA facilities across the country. Audits of 731 VA hospitals and clinics also were released June 9 and June 19.

As of June 15, about 46,000 veterans waited at least 90 days for their first VA medical appointments, the agency said. That's down from 57,000 who waited more than 90 days as of May 15.

An additional 7,000 veterans had never gotten an appointment for VA care, despite seeking one over the past decade, the VA said. That's down from about 64,000 veterans who did not get appointments as of May 15.

Despite the improvements, Gibson said veterans in many communities still are waiting too long to receive needed care. The VA provides health care to nearly 9 million enrolled veterans.

"There is more work to be done," Gibson said Thursday. "We must restore the public's trust in VA, but more importantly, we must restore the trust of our veterans who depend on us for care."

A veteran died this week after collapsing in an Albuquerque, New Mexico, veterans hospital cafeteria. The man waited 30 minutes for an ambulance, officials said Thursday.

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Follow Matthew Daly: https://twitter.com/MatthewDalyWDC

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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