Pinellas Park WWII vet plans to move cross-country due to long wait times at the local VA

For more than a decade Alvin Kalicki has called Pinellas Park home. But today a for-sale sign hangs in his window.
He's hoping Florida won't be his home for much longer. 
The 89-year-old World War II veteran is ready to pack up all of his medals and pictures and head north, back to his hometown of Buffalo, N.Y. 
"I can't wait to be there," Kalicki said. "I haven't seen snow in about 10 years."
But winter weather isn't the real reason for his pending move. Kalicki was diagnosed with cancer in both his prostate and his throat. It's currently in remission. But the notoriously long wait times at the VA has his family nervous.
Kevin, his son, saw it firsthand a couple of weeks ago when he took his father to the Bay Pines VA Medical Center to schedule an appointment. 
"The first thing the woman said to us was, 'Is this an emergency?'" he recalled. "He has had problems with his skin. The next appointment was September 10. That's crazy! It's like you have to be really really sick before they take care of you." 
Recently, VA wait times have been under scrutiny nationwide. An audit released in June found that more than 57,000 veterans have been waiting to see doctors for more than three months. Bay Pines was specifically listed in the audit as requiring "further review."
"They have too many people and they don't have enough employees," Kalicki said. "It's gotten out of hand."
Kalicki's son can't help but feel let down. 
"If you're not taking care of veterans...I mean aren't those the most important people to take care of?" he said. 
The Kalickis admit they don't know if the care will be any better in Buffalo. However, they're hopeful the wait time will. Florida currently has the third largest population of veterans in the nation. 
Jason Dangel, the public affairs officer for Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, released the following statement in response:

As the fourth largest VA healthcare system in the country, and a leader in healthcare quality, safety and delivery, we recognize that providing timely access to care is essential for positive health outcomes. We continue to make positive strides to ensure Veterans are scheduled for medical appointments timely and appropriately.

In direct support of VA's Accelerated Care Initiative, we continue extended hours of operation at our larger sites, review those waiting for care and alternatives to providing care in VA, examine physician productivity, improve our scheduling capabilities, and provide telehealth and in home care where appropriate.

For Veterans who need same day access, it is available through the Emergency Department and an Urgent Care clinic at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center, Urgent Care at the Lee County Healthcare Center in Cape Coral, as well as walk in opportunities at our community based outpatient clinics in Bradenton, Naples, Palm Harbor, Port Charlotte, Sarasota, Sebring, and St. Petersburg.  Telephone communication and the use of My HealtheVet - VA's award-winning e-health website - are also ways Veterans can access health care providers for non-urgent concerns.

Patient advocacy is an important component to our proactive, patient centered care delivery model, and we are committed to addressing concerns brought forward by Veterans and others to enhance the experience of the Veteran and improve our system.


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