Dear Editor: 

Last week Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin clearly stated the challenges facing the Department of Veterans Affairs. Let me explain what is happening here, at the Oklahoma City VA Health Care System and our community clinics, and what we are doing to improve services to our veterans.

Our priority is to provide the best healthcare available to our veterans who have served our country. Over the last year, we have improved access to care but we can still get better. In Ada, the average wait times for appointments are 10 days for mental health care and no wait for primary care for returning appointments. New patients wait an average of 13 days for primary care and 4 days for mental health care. Veterans can also receive same-day services as needed for primary care and mental health care.

The VA has also recently authorized emergency mental health treatments for veterans with “other than honorable” discharges. This is particularly important in Oklahoma where we have many troops returning from serving overseas and many military retirees. These veterans will not be turned away if they need emergency mental health treatment. It is our commitment to help these veterans during a mental health crisis.

Veterans that come to the main hospital in Oklahoma City will also see many changes happening. Parking has always been a frustration, but construction of our 300+ space patient parking garage will be complete later this year, and we’ve already received approval for a second parking garage. Other long-term plans including moving high-traffic clinics to lower floors of the hospital, relieving the wait times for elevators.

How can you help? Over 8% of appointments are no-shows, which equates to thousands of appointments each month. Those are appointments that could have been given to another veteran. We need our patients to contact us before their appointment if they need to reschedule.

Every citizen can make a positive difference in the life of a veteran. Consider a job with VA where you can serve Oklahoma’s veterans every day. We have a variety of positions, both clinical and administrative, listed at www.oklahoma.va.gov. Visits from community groups also do so much to lift the spirits of our patients. Call our Voluntary Service office at (405) 456-5162 to schedule a visit.

We understand the challenges our veterans are facing, and that’s why I’m committed to helping fix them. And with the help of our grateful community and our dedicated staff, we will continue to improve care for Oklahoma’s veterans.

Wade Vlosich

Director/CEO

Oklahoma City VA Health Care System:The Oklahoma City VA Health Care System operates a large hospital in Oklahoma City as well as clinics in Ada, Altus, Ardmore, Blackwell, Enid, Lawton, Oklahoma City, Stillwater and Wichita Falls.