WASHINGTON -- On Friday, President Obama made his first visit to the Phoenix VA hospital that epitomized all that was wrong with the health care system for veterans. Vets had died before they got treatment and officials were found to be hiding long waiting times. Now, President Obama says there have been improvements, but there's still more to do.
Brian Gibbs, an Iraq war veteran, says two months from now he will finally see a VA surgeon in Phoenix for the blood clot condition in his legs. You can get appointments now, he says, but it can take forever.
"And it just never ends," said Gibbs. "The questions are never answered."
Almost a year after the secret wait lists were revealed, the president came to Phoenix, report card in hand. It showed that since May, 4,000 veterans have been contacted for appointments, including everyone on a secret wait list; 30,000 appointments have been arranged outside the VA; and 94 percent of all appointments are made within the goal of 30 days.
"We brought in a new team that has been tackling these issues to make sure that wait times for scheduling [and] access to providers is greatly improved, but there's more work to do," said President Obama.
Brian Gibbs says some of that improvement is overstated -- especially the 30-day appointment.
"You get your appointment within 30 days, and then it gets canceled," said Gibbs. "And then you get another one within 30 days. That's actually happened to me several times."
Dr. Katherine Mitchell met with Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald. A year ago, when Mitchell told the truth about Phoenix, she was placed on leave.
"Certain things have improved," said Mitchell. "The ability to schedule a patient appointment within 30 days has improved. The speed of hiring has increased dramatically."
What hasn't changed is that no one has been fired. The former chief in Phoenix, Sharon Hellman, was fired for taking gifts -- not for the wait lists after a judge ruled the VA botched the evidence.