The agency’s officials said the increase mainly concerns those veterans who are on waiting lists of one month or longer, while the agency is facing a three-billion-dollar budget deficit, The New York Times reported.
The scale of the problem is so vast that the agency is mulling furloughs, hiring freeze, and other measures in a bid to keep up with the record demand, according to the Times.
The agency is also seeking Congress permission to shift money into programs in dire need of resources.
This is while the department is already at odds with Republicans, who insist on removing the funds for a new program that allows veterans in rural areas on the waiting lists.
“Something has to give, we can’t leave this as the status quo. We are not meeting the needs of veterans, and veterans are signaling that to us by coming in for additional care, and we can’t deliver it as timely as we want to,” Sloan Gibson, the department’s deputy secretary said.
Gibson also expressed his frustration over the lack of funds, saying “We have been pushing to accelerate access to care for veterans, but where we now find ourselves is that if we don’t do something different we’re going to be $2.7 billion short.”
He also predicted that in the future there will be an even bigger demand and therefore more money will be needed.
The agency has announced that they have handled 2.7 million appointments this year more than all preceding years and have sent another 900,000 patients to other care providers.
According to the officials, the capacity for veteran care has been increased this year by seven million more visits, which is already twice the number they thought would make up for the shortcomings.