The Top 10 VA Hospitals Where You Can Quickly Get a Primary Care Appointment
America’s veterans continue to use services at our nation’s military installations even after they leave military service, and MyBaseGuide serves all of our military heroes: active duty, reserve and veterans of all types. Recently, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump spoke at the 117th Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. The presidential candidates laid our their plans for how to reduce veteran patient wait times while outlining their vision for the VA.
In keeping with our mission to support the military, our staff wanted to highlight the VA medical facilities that are offering the fastest patient appointment times for the 6 million veterans who seek treatment at the 150 VA hospitals and 820 VA outpatient clinics each year. To identify these facilities, we partnered with www.inmyarea.com to analyze more than 160,000 data points from the Department of Veterans Affairs and other independent sources. Their article on the 10 VA medical centers with the longest primary care waiting times can be found here.
Average wait times are just one metric to rank the VA medical centers. It does not reflect quality of care, only how fast veterans were seen for their primary care appointments.
- 97% of VA appointments are completed within 30 days.
- 86% are completed within a week.
- 22% are completed the same day.
- Average primary care appointment wait time is five days nationally.
1. VA New Jersey Health Care System – Lyons Campus
Lyons, New Jersey
Average Primary Care Appointment Wait Time: 0.41 days
Primary Care Providers: 82
The New Jersey Health care system is composed of two main facilities, the Lyons Campus and the East Orange Campus. In its promotional materials, the VANJHCS says primary care is a focus, and it shows. On average, it takes less than a day to get a primary care appointment here. One reason might be that the director of the entire system publishes her contact information for anyone to contact her with concerns. This accountability must be working because the New Jersey VA system has grabbed the No. 1 and No. 5 spots on our Top 10 list.
2. VA New York Harbor Healthcare System – St. Albans Community Living Center
Ozone Park, New York
Average Primary Care Appointment Wait Time: 0.77 days
Primary Care Providers: 17
This Queens, New York, Veterans Hospital was facing demolition five years ago, and the local community fought for and saved this historic facility. The primary care wait times in comparison with other facilities across the country continue to make it seem like that battle was worth it. However, local veterans continue ask for the VA to increase services here to include more support for female veterans and an emergency department.
3. Butler VA Medical Center
Average Primary Care Appointment Wait Time: 0.94 days
Primary Care Providers: 18
At this 69-year-old facility, 19,000 veterans receive comprehensive medical care. The main campus is also supported by five primary care outpatient clinics nearby. It also received a 100 percent performance rating on three 2015 patient surveys. A new 168,000-square-foot facility, scheduled to be completed in 2017, should improve their already-good turnaround times.
4. Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital
Average Primary Care Appointment Wait Time: 1.10 days
Primary Care Providers: 20
Primary care wait times at this facility occasionally dip below a whole day. One reason might be its Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) partnership. This multi-disciplinary team ties veterans with providers, nurses and clerks to best meet each veteran’s personal health care goals. The facility also has ties to Harvard Medical School and Boston University School of Medicine.
5. VA New Jersey Health Care System – East Orange Campus
East Orange, New Jersey
Average Primary Care Appointment Wait Time: 1.18 days
Primary Care Providers: 82
The second VA New Jersey Health Care System on our list. The East Orange Campus also maintains an active research program with over 60 investigators conducting pioneering research into a number of medical fields. In addition to developing new veteran-focused programs, it was recently selected as one of two research centers to look at new ways to care for active-duty patients and veterans with war-related illnesses.
6. Fresno VA Medical Center
Average Primary Care Appointment Wait Time: 1.24 days
Primary Care Providers: 5
This VAMC cares for 28,000 veterans in six counties in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Three community-based outpatient clinics help extend the area served by this facility. It also uses telehealth services to increase access to specialty care. Their July 16, 2016, ban of Pokémon Go might also be keeping their staff focused on patient care.
7. Dayton VA Medical Center
Average Primary Care Appointment Wait Time: 1.71 days
Primary Care Providers: 39
The Dayton VAMC has been serving veterans for 149 years after accepting its first patient in 1867. One secret to its fast appointments might be its contracts with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and 11 area hospitals to help provide services. In addition to its main facility, it has four community-based outpatient clinics nearby.
8. West Haven VA Medical Center
West Haven, Connecticut
Average Primary Care Appointment Wait Time: 1.77 days
Primary Care Providers: 18
The West Haven VMAC started as a tuberculosis center in 1918 and was converted to an Army hospital following World War I. It’s now a full-fledged VA Hospital that serves more than 135,000 patients per year at its outpatient clinic. It’s also supported by six primary care outpatient clinics and an extremely strong affiliation with the Yale School of Medicine. There is even a GPS-tracked shuttle bus that connects the West Haven VAMC with the Yale School of Medicine, only 5 miles away.
9. Grand Island VA Medical Center
Grand Island, Nebraska
Average Primary Care Appointment Wait Time: 1.81 days
Primary Care Providers: 12
Over 12,000 veterans are enrolled at this facility that is more than 60 years old. In 2015, renovations moved specialty care from the first floor where it shared space with primary medicine, to the second floor. Increasing the area for primary and specialty care might be one of the reasons that this facility’s primary care appointment wait times are less than 36 hours.
10. Dwight D. Eisenhower VA Medical Center
Average Primary Care Appointment Wait Time: 2.0 days
Primary Care Providers: 37
Rounding out our Top 10, this 130-year-old facility is part of the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System that serves approximately 43,000 veterans. More than 100 historic buildings on the campus are being rehabilitated for expanded use by the hospital. Creating extra space could be helping this VAMC provide faster care.
Just because your nearest VAMC might have longer wait times doesn’t mean you don’t have options:
The new Veterans Choice Program is a temporary benefit that lets eligible veterans seek treatment from civilian healthcare providers in their communities rather than waiting for a VA appointment or traveling to a VA facility. You might qualify for this program if you meet one of a number of criteria, including:
- Being given an appointment wait time of more than 30 days.
- The nearest VA facility is more than 40 driving miles away or you have to travel by boat or plane to reach the nearest VA facility.
- You reside in a state or a U.S. Territory without a full-service VA medical facility that provides emergency services, surgical and hospital care.
If you think you might qualify for the Veterans Choice Program, please speak with the VA to establish your coverage to receive timely medical care.
MyBaseGuide reviewed external and internal data sources. External data has been linked to its original sources, and internal data has been identified as such throughout this study. VA medical centers were selected over VA clinics because the centers serve the largest number of veterans and would help the largest number of veterans comparing wait times. To calculate the average wait time for each facility, we used the Department of Veterans Affairs data for the first of each month from January to July 2016. Surgeries and procedures appointments were not included in the data set.
- Department of Veterans Affairs, http://www.va.gov/health/access-audit.asp, Accessed July 30, 2016.
- Department of Veterans Affairs, http://www.va.gov/health/OurDoctors.asp, Accessed July 31, 2016.
- Commission on Care, https://commissiononcare.sites.usa.gov/files/2016/…, Accessed Aug. 4, 2016.
- Sloan D. Gibson, Deputy Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs, presentation to Commission on Care, April 18, 2016.
- 38 U.S.C. § 7401(3)(A)(iii).
- McKinsey & Company, Inc., Independent Assessment of the Health Care Delivery Systems and Management Processes of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Assessment E (Workflow—Scheduling), 17-18, accessed June 3, 2016. http://www.va.gov/opa/choiceact/documents/assessme….
- The MITRE Corporation, Independent Assessment of the Health Care Delivery Systems and Management Processes of the Department of Veterans Affairs , Assessment F (Workflow—Clinical), 14 and A-2 accessed January 1, 2016, http://www.va.gov/opa/choiceact/documents/assessme….
- The Department of Veterans Affairs: Office of the Inspector General, Administrative Summaries of Investigation Regarding Wait Times, http://www.va.gov/oig/publications/administrative-…, Accessed Aug. 2, 2016.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs, Ten Things to Know About the Choice Program, http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2015/July/10…, Accessed Aug. 4, 2016.
- Robert A. McDonald, Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs, presentation to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention, July 26, 2016.