US Postal Service Delays Affecting Veteran's Prescription Deliveries, Cite Potential 'Catastrophic' Consequences

Delays in the U.S. Postal Service have led to a number of veterans waiting for their medication longer than normal. The Department of Veterans Affairs typically fills prescriptions by mail, and the delays could cause some serious issues for recipients.

VA's website indicates that prescriptions "usually arrive within three to five days" after being ordered, even boasting "60 hours from filling to delivery." It also advises a 10-day window when it comes to ordering refills. That estimate appeared consistent with the normal wait times veterans described to Connecting Vets, and some vets said they have yet to see significant delays. More recently, some have reported that the wait times have more than tripled in some cases. Others have said that the wait has been as long as three weeks or more for prescriptions, which used to only take a few days.

A VA pharmacy chief said that the prescription delays are "critical breaks in veterans' therapy," and they "are swamped with patient complaints over delivery delays." He went on to say that the VA has had "reports of veterans in withdrawal and/or off antidepressants that are experiencing relapse," though the USPS has been "minimizing delays" where possible. "So far we are on our own," the pharmacy chief said. "[We're] using lots of UPS and FedEx overnight when we know someone is short." Typically, local VA facilities only fulfill up to 20 percent of prescriptions, compared to the 80 percent fulfilled via mail.

Most of the delays appear to be the result of massive budget cuts brought about by Postmaster-General Louis DeJoy, who was appointed by President Donald Trump. Some senators have since been expressing concerns that the Trump administration has been making the system inefficient on purpose as a push for mail-in election ballots grows amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Since being appointed, DeJoy approved a massive overhaul to the USPS' operational structure in July. He was previously the CEO of a North Carolina-based logistics firm. In an internal memo published by The Washington Post, DeJoy had said that mail carriers might "temporarily" allow "mail left behind or mail on the workroom floor or docks," acknowledging that he even he was aware this process was "not typical." However, DeJoy has since denied any delays were intended to slow down election ballots.