Veterans facing long wait times to schedule doctor appointments

Veterans facing long wait times to schedule doctor appointments

PORTLAND, Ore. – If you’re a veteran, odds are that you’ve learned how to be patient.

If you’re a veteran trying to make a doctor’s appointment in Oregon, you’re going to need to be.

Veterans have become frustrated with extremely long wait times when they call the V.A. hospital in Portland, with wait times often running up to an hour.

Air Force veteran Jeff Carr said he was No. 37 in the queue when he called recently.

“Today I didn't bother calling,” he said on Thursday. “I just got in the car and drove to the clinic to make my appointment. Even that didn't go smoothly because they're not set up for that."

Carr said he first noticed the problem about a month ago, and that he can no longer talk directly to anybody in Oregon. His claim held up when KATU News got through on the appointment line on Thursday night. The woman who answered the phone said she was at a call center in Ohio. 

"There's no way (to talk to somebody local) - it's not even in the system,” Carr said. “You used to be able to do that."

Carr contacted Congressman Earl Blumenauer, who sent a letter to the local V.A. that said about 60 percent of veterans were hanging up rather than waiting on hold.

At 10:50 a.m. on Friday, the wait was 50 calls long. A recording Friday morning said the V.A.’s Portland and Puget Sound facilities “have joined forces,” and attributed the delays to the ongoing transition.

Calls Thursday evening and Friday morning to the Department of Veterans Affairs were not returned. Blumenauer is also awaiting a response from the V.A.

“It’s gotten now to where it’s unworkable,” Carr said.