Moving in the Right Direction:

Improved management and a new data accounting system have helped Veterans Affairs officials slash month-long wait times for initial doctor visits, according to a statement released by Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), head of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. A backlog of 18,000 veterans in early 2006 waiting for first time doctor appointments had been chopped down to 4,000 by October. Craig called the 80 percent improvement rate “remarkable.” Committee spokesman Jeff Schrade attributed a lot of the success to “better management,” citing the case of Max Lewis, a new northwest region director, who reduced the number of veterans facing 30-day waits in his region from about 7,000 to fewer than 2,000. VA spokeswoman Laurie Tranter told Daily Report that the sharp decline in wait times was the result of supportive top VA leadership, streamlined appointment procedures, better trained staff, the use of electronic health records, and a department-wide drive to cut down on missed appointments, eliminate unnecessary doctor visits, and maximize appointments kept.