VA probe turns up widespread problems

Los Angeles TimesMay 28, 2014 

— An investigation of wait times for medical care at Veterans Affairs facilities has found “inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic” through the VA and “instances of manipulation of VA data that distort the legitimacy of reported waiting times,” prompting new calls for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.

The VA inspector general’s interim report, released Wednesday, shows the investigation has expanded to 42 facilities, more than a dozen beyond the previously reported 26.

At the Phoenix VA, the main subject of the interim report, investigators “substantiated that significant delays in access to care negatively impacted the quality of care,” finding about 1,700 veterans who were waiting for an appointment but were not on a waiting list.

“These veterans were and continue to be at risk of being forgotten or lost,” the report says, adding they may never obtain an appointment.

“A direct consequence of not appropriately placing veterans on EWLs (electronic waiting lists) is that the Phoenix HCS leadership significantly understated the time new patients waited for their primary care appointment in their FY 2013 performance appraisal accomplishments, which is one of the factors considered for awards and salary increases.”

The report prompted Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, to immediately call for Shinseki’s resignation.

Miller said the report confirmed “beyond a shadow of a doubt what was becoming more obvious by the day: Wait time schemes and data manipulation are systemic throughout VA and are putting veterans at risk in Phoenix and across the country.”

“VA needs a leader who will take swift and decisive action to discipline employees responsible for mismanagement, negligence and corruption that harms veterans while taking bold steps to replace the department’s culture of complacency with a climate of accountability,” Miller said in a statement. “Shinseki has proved time and again he is not that leader. That’s why it’s time for him to go.”

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