Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The Dorn VA hospital was singled out during the national VA scandal, for having some of the most deaths and some of the longest wait times.
VA Secretary Sloan Gibson says a lot has changed here but there is more work to be done.
"The first thing I would say is I'm sorry, we let you down. The second thing I would says is have faith, because we are going to deliver on our promise, that's my commitment," said Gibson.
That was Gibson's message to all veterans that are dealing with long wait times here in the Midlands.
Within the past year, the Dorn VA has hired new leadership, cut the backlog nearly in half and made a dent in wait times for claims from 289 days to 158.
"I'm seeing and hearing a lot of the right things but at the same time, we haven't made a difference for a veteran until that veteran has seen a doctor."
"Right now it's a hard time for veterans to be optimistic and as a veteran myself I get it, I know how they feel," said Steven Diaz with Hidden Wounds.
Diaz is a disabled veteran and works with Hidden Wounds; an advocacy group for veterans.
He and others met with Gibson about the issues in the Midlands.
"He said you can take it to the bank that the VA backlog would be erased by next year and as a veteran we would be very eager to see that."
Gibson says focusing at the average wait time is a trap that the department fell into and he believes that creates a disconnection when it comes to caring for those in need.
"Even if it was the 14 day standard, for the patient that needed to be seen today, we have failed that patient miserably and then for the patient that didn't need to be seen for 30 days or 60 days, we've actually created a system where there is an inducement to try to pull that patient forward," said Gibson."When you focus on averages, you lose sight of those who wait the longest."
Because the Dorn VA was singled out for having a lot of issues...he wanted to make sure he personally met with the doctors and leadership to work on a solution.