New VA Secretary Robert McDonald wants to improve the department's reputation, tarnished in recent scandals. (Pool / Getty Images)
The Department of Veterans Affairs has reduced by half the number of veterans waiting more than three months to see a doctor since a scandal erupted at the agency in spring over delays in health care, according to data released Thursday.
The agency's health care system for veterans has paid to send nearly 200,000 patients to private doctors in order to speed up care, part of an effort that has decreased average wait times to see primary physicians from 51 to 43 days.
Despite those gains, the agency's data tracking efforts, which now span three and a half months, also show some persistent problems: as of Aug. 15, the date of the last data collection, the number of patients who wait more than 30 days to see a doctor remained largely unchanged, at more than 630,000 — roughly 10.5 percent of the VA's patients.
Reported wait times for established patients have also risen consistently since the VA first released figures in mid May. Established patients seeking primary care have to wait nearly 6 days to see a doctor, up from 3.5 days, according to the latest figures.
Contributing: Gregg Zoroya