V.A. Audit Finds Long Waits for Care Are Widespread

   < < Go Back
from The New York Times,

A nationwide audit of Department of Veterans Affairs health care facilities found that about 57,000 patients have been waiting more than three months for appointments, while nearly 64,000 others have been enrolled in the system for a decade but have still not been seen by doctors.

The audit, released on Monday, found that some form of data manipulation on wait times for patients had occurred at three of four veterans medical facilities across the country. The audit also found that 13 percent of the schedulers interviewed stated that they had been instructed by “supervisors or others” to enter false information related to how long veterans had to wait for appointments.

The report also seemed to confirm what many whistle-blowers had been saying, but which the department had denied: That the goal of trying to schedule patients within 14 days had created perverse incentives for administrators, because their job performance review was tied to that 14-day window. The goal of having patients see doctors and nurses within 14 days will no longer be included in employee performance contracts.

“This action will eliminate incentives to engage in inappropriate scheduling practices or behaviors,” the department said in a statement.

The audit underscored the immense size of the V.A., as it seeks to remake itself in the wake of a scandal involving patient wait-times that led to the ouster of Eric Shinseki, the secretary of veterans affairs, and created a new political vulnerability for President Obama.

The 57,436 patients who waited more than 90 days for appointments accounted for one percent of the six million appointments that were scheduled — excluding surgeries and other procedures — as of May 15, 2014.

More From The New York Times: