PHOENIX (KSAZ) - Big changes are coming to the Phoenix Veterans Administration. New buildings are going up, and a major expansion is underway.
This comes more than a year after whistleblowers claimed VA managers kept hidden waiting lists to disguise long wait times.
That claim sparked a national scandal, now VA leaders say the situation has gotten better, and they have the numbers to prove it.
The number of employees has increased, and the VA is looking to fill more than 700 positions.
Wait times have shortened, but leaders admit there is still room for improvement.
At the VA signs of changes are obvious, the new construction brings a much-needed expansion. The VA is staffing up, and they are not having trouble finding good candidates.
"People are coming here because they want the challenge, and they want to help veterans. I think we're improving, and we're trying to get better and add more staff, we're not there yet, but we are working real hard," said Glen Grippen.
The medical director and the heads of the regional benefits administration and the cemetery say increased investment is making a difference.
Salaries have gone up to be more competitive, the total number of employees is rising fast, and patient visits are expected to reach almost a million this fiscal year, the highest ever.
"I don't want to candy coat this, we have a lot of work to do, and improvement that needs to happen, but we're getting positive comments from the veterans organization, and we're getting positive feedback from the congressional delegation," said Glen Grippen.
But long wait times still pose a challenge across the Phoenix system about 11% of patients are waiting more than 30 days for care, however, many have noticed the improvements.
"I show up for an appointment and get right in, and I don't wait around for an hour or two like we used to," said Paul Higbee.
So is it easy to get an appointment now? "Yeah," said Higbee.
"I have never had any problems getting in, or getting out, whenever I have an appointment it is there waiting for me," said Marvin Laughlin.