ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Alaska Veterans Affairs system says it is adding 100 staff members in response to negative reviews from patients and staff.

Dr. Timothy Ballard said the new positions are focused on mental health care and support functions, KTVA-TV reported Wednesday. That’s because those staff members are overworked, so the system sometimes has to send patients for outside care.

“Any opportunity that we can have staff in house to provide those mental health services — it’s at a significant benefit to the veteran because they get more timely access to that care, but it’s also at a fairly significant savings,” Ballard said.

The 100 new jobs boost the system’s staff number to 650 at a cost of $6 million. The money to pay them is being repurposed from other places in the budget, Ballard said.

The system also is increasing how quickly it fills vacancies, bringing the wait time down from six months to six weeks, he said.

Ballard said Alaska Veterans Affairs has seen improvements for veterans trying to schedule appointments.

When the Choice Program first started, vets had to use out-of-state call centers to set up visits, which caused problems. Ballard said they have brought scheduling back in house and resolved many of those issues.


Information from: KTVA-TV, http://www.ktva.com

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