WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.) sent a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and the VA St. Louis Health Care System this week to express their concern and demand answers “in response to serious allegations that have been made regarding the availability of mental health services within the VA St. Louis Health Care System.”

“The allegations suggest that VA St. Louis mental health providers are making inefficient use of their time, seeing patients for only a fraction of the workday, and in the process creating delays in the provision of mental health services for veterans in need.  If true, these claims would demonstrate an unacceptable lack of leadership at the VA in St. Louis that is putting the health and safety of veterans at risk,” the Senators wrote. “The care, well-being and support of our nation’s veterans are of the utmost importance to us. It is our responsibility to provide the oversight necessary to ensure our veterans receive the quality medical care they have earned.”

The Missouri Senators requested specific information on the availability of mental health treatment in the VA St. Louis Health Care System, including the number of providers, the number of patients seen per day, average wait times, standards for providing timely access to services, and specific steps to shorten wait times.

To read the entire letter, please see below or click here.

May 12, 2014

The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20420 

Dear Secretary Shinseki, 

We write today in response to serious allegations that have been made regarding the availability of mental health services within the VA St. Louis Health Care System.  The allegations suggest that VA St. Louis mental health providers are making inefficient use of their time, seeing patients for only a fraction of the workday, and in the process creating delays in the provision of mental health services for veterans in need.  If true, these claims would demonstrate an unacceptable lack of leadership in St. Louis that is putting the health and safety of veterans at risk.  To assist us in providing the level of bipartisan Congressional oversight these allegations demand we ask that you provide us with the following information: 

  • How many mental health providers, by type, are currently providing mental health treatment to patients in VA St. Louis system?
  • By type of provider, on average how many patients are seen per provider per day?
  • What is the average wait time by type of service (in-patient/out-patient; initial consultation/follow-up appointment; phone call/telehealth/in-person appointment) for veterans seeking mental health services in the VA St. Louis system?
  • By type of service (in-patient/out-patient; initial consultation/follow-up appointment; phone call/telehealth/in-person appointment), what is the average number of patients seen per provider per day?
  • What is the standard for providing timely access to mental health services and what means does VA St. Louis use to determine whether it is meeting that standard?
  • What specific steps are being taken within the VA St. Louis system to shorten wait times for patients seeking mental health services?

If necessary, please provide any additional metrics or statistics you feel are important in determining whether there is adequate access to mental health services in the VA St. Louis Health Care System.

The care, well-being and support of our nation’s veterans are of the utmost importance to us.  It is our responsibility to provide the oversight necessary to ensure our veterans receive the quality medical care they have earned.  We appreciate your prompt response to these questions. 

Cc: Mr. Marc A. Magill, Acting Director, VA St. Louis Health Care System

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