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Study: Veterans waiting to seek care may be slowing VA system

Veterans are nearly twice as likely to delay care -- which researchers say is affecting the system.

By Stephen Feller
Complaints about the speed with which the VA provides healthcare to military veterans run rampant, though a recent study shows some of the blame may lay on veterans being nearly twice as likely as the general population to delay seeking care. Photo by Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
Complaints about the speed with which the VA provides healthcare to military veterans run rampant, though a recent study shows some of the blame may lay on veterans being nearly twice as likely as the general population to delay seeking care. Photo by Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, May 2 (UPI) -- Nearly three of every ten veterans report they have delayed seeking medical care, which researchers suggest may be slowing down the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' ability to serve them.

A recent study conducted by researchers at Marshall University and the University of Texas found difficulty accessing care is a problem for veterans, but being significantly more likely to delay care is contributing to the slow pace of VA-provided healthcare.

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The study "suggests a possible link between VA access problems and veterans' behavior in seeking needed health care, which may be creating disparities in the effectiveness of care for this vulnerable and deserving population," researchers write in the study, published in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from a national survey of 11,000 people conducted in 2010 and 2011 to assess delays in seeking healthcare among the general population and military veterans. Of the participants, just 1.72 percent were covered by veteran's insurance, while the rest had private health insurance.

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When asked if they had "put off or postponed getting medical care they thought they needed," 29 percent of veterans said they'd done so, compared to a national rate of 17 percent.

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Veterans were 1.76 times more likely to delay medical care, which the researchers said may result in their care getting worse, requiring higher levels of care that require more time and cost more money, according to a press release.

"More studies are needed to expand our understanding on the magnitude and current status of care delay and offer specific steps to rectify related issues on delayed care if reported in military health care," the researchers write.

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