Here’s the latest on where the “scheduling misunderstandings” occurred in VA. Pretty soon we’ll have a real map that shows 150 stars on it-one for each VA medical facility. VAMC American Lake maintains they are pure as the driven snow. Try a dental appointment for cleaning every three months as I am required to do. The conversation goes like this at the end of my appointment.
VA desk employee at Dental Clinic.: Okay, Mr. Graham. You’re good to go. Call us in three months for your next appointment.
Me: Well, I always do but you guys are all booked out by the time I call.
VA: Well, the trick is to call when we start answering the phone at 0630. I’d also suggest you call on the first of the month as all the appointments are usually gone by 1000 hours. We have a lot of Veterans who use this facility if you hadn’t noticed.
Me: I do but I still end up with an appointment over a month after the three month checkup so it is four months and change in reality.
VA: Yeah, well. What can I say? We’re pretty busy around here. Veterans have teeth, you know? Well, actually you old guys don’t. Ha-ha. Get it? False teeth?
Me: I also noticed this last time that even if I call at 0630, there is no one answering the phone anyway. When did that change? So why do I need to call early if no one is answering?
VA: Well, if you didn’t, you’d be 5 months out. We schedule on a first come-first served basis. If you call in late, it means we have to schedule you in late. We encountered a lot of angry Veterans so the receptionist decided to just let it all go onto voicemail to avoid the stress.
Me: What if I have a dental emergency and need to get in immediately?
VA: Then you call 911. Or we have a walk-in clinic on Thursdays at 0715 and the first available dentist will see you. You may have to wait a few hours though. But if a Veteran forgets his appointment and doesn’t show up, we usually can get you right in in less than three hours.
Me: Back to the scheduling. You tell me you can only schedule one month in advance. So If I call for an appointment on March 1st, and you give me an appointment of April 16th, then it’s actually more than a month out. How does that work?
VA: Well, we are required to schedule you in so that’s the earliest date. You’re rated 100% or over so you get Priority 1 status.
Me: I understand that but if you schedule an appointment in mid-April when I call in on March 1st, you’re scheduling it over a month in advance. You do realize that, right? You’re doing what you say you are not permitted to do.
VA: Well, you have to understand. We are not allowed to take appointments until you are scheduled to be scheduled for them. In that case, we have to schedule you in for the next available one. Sometimes that’s over a month. There’s nothing sneaky about that.
Me: I can’t get an appointment sooner than a month after when I’m supposed to have it but I have to call in on the month I am scheduled to have the appointment. Is that correct?
VA: Exactly. And since we are booked out 45 days right now, you need to call in at the appropriate time in order for us to give you the earliest available appointment. I know it sounds complicated but if you understand how our scheduling rules work, it wouldn’t sound quite so stupid. It works fine. Just call in early on the first of the month and we’ll make sure you get in when the first appointment is available. Is there anything else I can help you with?
Me: What happens when you get to two-or even three months out for the next available appointment?
VA: Well, then we send you up to Seattle’s dental clinic because they have more dentists there and we can avoid a long wait. We have a shuttle bus that leaves here at 0545 every morning and comes back at 1730 for your convenience in getting there…