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Study scrutinizes cancer care wait times for vets

We have written recently about numerous scandals that have originated within the Department of Veterans Affairs. We have expressed sympathy for the veterans who have been affected by these scandals and expressed concerns that they deserve far better treatment than they are receiving from the VA healthcare system and those who process veterans disability benefits.

A foundational standard of patient care affects every physician who practices medicine within the United States. Physicians who fail to uphold this standard are often sued by those they harm and may otherwise be disciplined by their employers and by medical licensing authorities. This basic standard, along with well-known consequences which result from breaching this standard, help to ensure that patients are treated with respect and that all patients benefit from timely and adequate medical knowledge. And yet, it seems that the nation's veterans are often not protected by this standard because they cannot even get appointments to see their physicians.

According to recent studies, some of the nation's veterans have been compelled to wait unacceptable lengths of time to have their cancers treated. Oftentimes cancer is an aggressive condition which can worsen considerably over a short period of time, even if it is not expected to. Failure to treat cancer promptly and properly can dramatically affect a patient's prognosis.

A former VA surgeon who is now employed by Northwestern University as a cancer surgeon has questioned just how long some vets are waiting for cancer care. He and his colleagues determined that vets experience longer wait times at VA facilities for the care of all eight common cancers they studied. The wait times for colon and liver cancers are more than twice as long at VA facilities than they are at community hospitals.

The former VA surgeon also correctly concluded that, "No veteran should ever have to wait to receive the care they have earned through their service and sacrifice. We must work together to fix the unacceptable, systemic problems in accessing VA healthcare."

Source: Click on Detroit, "Veterans waiting longer for cancer care, researchers say," Elizabeth Cohen and John Bonifield, July 16, 2014

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