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Nashville VA Pledges to Clear Backlog -- John Dunn

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- New audits reveal mid-state veterans are waiting about two months to get their first appointment with a doctor. The VA Healthcare System recognizes these are serious issues.

There are more than 4,500 veterans on the waiting list. The director of the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System says he is disappointed about the backlog.

"I've been waiting to be assigned a primary care doctor since September," says Vietnam Veteran Bob Mims. Mims says he requested to see a new doctor nine months ago. He is now on the waiting list. This week he had to visit the emergency room to be treated for a tick bite.

The Tennessee Valley VA is now responding to the problem. "Everybody in this organization is focused that we need to fix this," says VA system director Juan Morales.

Director Juan Morales says if veterans need urgent care they will be scheduled. Others will be covered to visit a private sector doctor close to home. The Nashville area VA expects to receive more than $14 million to help clear the backlog. "We're using every resource out there in the community closest to where the veteran is to provide that care," says Morales.

Morales also plans to hire more doctors, nurses, and clerks. The main backlogs are in areas like orthopedics and ophthalmology. Morales says he is focused on taking care of veterans. "We're committed to making the change, making it right," says Morales.

Bob Mims hopes his long wait is nearly over. He says too many veterans are waiting for care and their health may be at risk. "It needs to be expedientially, now, not later," says Mims.

The VA continues to audit its hospitals and clinics, and three Tennessee facilities have been flagged for further review. Those include the Nashville hospital, and clinics in Chattanooga and McMinnville.

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