Seeking to end years of scandal over patient treatment delays, the Department of Veterans Affairs is working to offer its patients same-day care at each of its medical centers by year's end.
The goal is part of a nine-point list of initiatives announced Friday, which is being implemented at clinics and hospitals across the nation to better care for veterans in the embattled health system.
Already, 34 facilities offer that same-day primary and mental health care. Colorado Springs is not on that list, though the capability is expected to expand, said Dr. David Shulkin, the VA's undersecretary for health, during a conference for health care journalists in Cleveland.
"This is not only possible - we're doing it today," Shulkin said. "What we need to do is to consistently do it across our 168 member centers."
The VA also plans to roll out an app across the nation that allows patients to schedule their own appointments. And the health care system is implementing a new, easier-to-use scheduling system for its staff, Shulkin said.
The initiative, called a "declaration of access" comes as the agency continues to face withering criticism over the falsification of appointment records across the nation - including at Colorado Springs' clinic at Centennial Boulevard and Fillmore Street.
A recent report by the agency's inspector general found 11.5 percent of veteran appointments for care in Colorado Springs were delayed by 30 days or more. The figure is nearly four times the national rate, and it's up 7 percent from before the new 76,000-square-foot clinic first opened.
The report also found that local clinic workers delayed adding scores of veterans to a list for the "Veterans Choice" program, which would have allowed them to seek private care. It impacted 229 of 450 cases reviewed, the report said.
The new goals are meant to help the VA move past those issues, Shulkin said.
"That is not what we believe represents the current VA today," said Shulkin, of treatment delays that first gained notoriety two years ago. "We've now moved beyond that, reaffirmed our values and making sure we're putting systems in place that work for veterans."