U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, a Democrat from Tucson, is pressing federal officials about wait times in the Southern Arizona Veterans Affairs Health Care system.
The federal agency has released data that shows veterans in Tucson have shorter wait times than the national average. But Barber is concerned that the data may not represent the full picture.
"I want to verify the accuracy of the data released on June 9 to ensure that our veterans are not falling victim to 'secret' secondary lists designed to make wait times appear shorter than they actually are," Barber wrote in a letter to VA administrators this week.
Barber noted that while the wait times reported were shorter than average, he still finds them too long.
Data released June 9 show that Tucson ranked among the top VA hospitals in getting veterans seen by a doctor within 30 days.
It was among 20 hospitals with a 99 percent rate. But Tucson ranked worse in wait times for mental-health appointments. It had the 118th longest wait for new patients and the 93rd longest wait for established patients.
New patients in Southern Arizona seeking mental health appointments are waiting an average of nearly one and a half months. Additionally, new patients seeking a primary care appointment in Southern Arizona wait an average of 34 days and new patients requiring specialty care must wait an average of 41 days.
Barber has asked the VA to "survey and release wait times for all facilities, including the Community Based Outpatient Clinics in Southern Arizona."
In addition to the VA hospital in Tucson, there are VA clinics in suburban areas of Pima County, in Sierra Vista and in Green Valley.
Barber says his Southern Arizona Congressional District Two includes 85,000 veterans.
Earlier this month, Barber and a Republican colleague urged the VA to pay for veterans to be immediately treated by private doctors if the veterans have been waiting too long for care at a VA medical facility.