Patients seeking care through the VA's Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System waited an average of 56 days for their first appointment with a primary care doctor — four times longer than the department's goal.

A report released Monday by theDepartment of Veterans Affairs said the average wait time for new patients at other VA hospitals in California ranged from about 25 days in Fresno to about 44 days in Loma Linda.

VA guidelines say veterans should be seen within 14 days of their desired date for a primary care appointment. The department now says that meeting that target was unattainable given existing resources and the growing demand for services.

The findings are part of a national audit ordered after a whistleblower said veterans were dying while waiting for care in Phoenix. In all, more than 700 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics were reviewed. The review also found that 7,086 veterans in California had requested an appointment during the enrollment process during the past 10 years but an appointment was not scheduled.

The audits indicate that accessing care is difficult for newcomers, but that established patients within the VA generally had little trouble getting in to see a doctor in a timely manner.

Read more from the Associated Press at the SF Gate