Cooked books, long wait times for patients and other shocking problems with healthcare for millions of military veterans helped bring down the Veterans Administration secretary and sparked a reform bill that Congress passed almost unanimously last week.
But long before the VA scandal broke, a leading veterans group had already begun tracking the agency's ills. In 2013, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) published the results of a survey that showed thousands of vets were waiting as long as year for urgently needed treatment. The data can be viewed on-line at thewaitwecarry.org.
This year the IAVA is publishing a new questionnaire about veterans healthcare and asking veterans from all conflicts and all eras, from World War II to the present, to share their experiences with the Veterans Health Administration.
Over the next several months, IAVA will collect the answers, including the personal stories of individual veterans, and then release the results in a new version of thewaitwecarry.org website. The IAVA will also provide the information from the questionnaires to NBC News.
Said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of IAVA, "In 2012, people had access to government statistics on the VA backlog, but the real human cost of the problem was a story that wasn't being told." He said the first version of the IAVA's questionnaire and website "changed all that when it provided veterans and their families a chance to tell their stories."
"We're using the same approach to drive the next iteration of the tool," said Rieckhoff. "Veterans from all generations deserve to have their VA story told."