Over 100,000 Veterans Face Delays Receiving Health Care—VA Audit

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Internal Report Found Widespread Problems With Appointment Scheduling, Pressure on Employees.

Some 100,000 veterans are experiencing long wait times for Department of Veterans Affairs health care and 70% of VA facilities visited had used an alternative to official appointment schedules to make wait times appear much shorter, according to an internal VA audit released Monday.

During a nearly monthlong audit of 731 VA facilities and nearly 4,000 employees, the VA found widespread problems with appointment scheduling and pressure on employees to change data. More than 10% of scheduling staff were given instruction on how to alter patient appointment scheduling, according to the audit.

“Today, we’re providing the details to offer transparency into the scale of our challenges, and of our system itself,” said Sloan Gibson, acting VA secretary, in a release. “I’ll repeat—this data shows the extent of the systemic problems we face, problems that demand immediate actions.”

Monday’s report is the culmination of an extensive audit ordered by Eric Shinseki, the former VA secretary, in the wake of widespread reports of the use of unauthorized patient wait lists throughout the VA system which made official wait times appear to be much shorter than the actual wait times faced by veterans.

As of May 15, roughly 57,436 Veterans were waiting to be scheduled for care and another 63,869 had enrolled in the VA health care system over the past decade yet have never been seen for an appointment.

The VA’s independent inspector general has also released an interim report on its review, which has found systemic problems with appointment-scheduling procedures at the VA. The full report from the independent IG is expected to be released in August, according to an IG spokeswoman.

Accompanying the release of the review data, Mr. Gibson announced a hiring freeze among senior positions at the VA, and has said the VA will “trigger administrative procedures” against senior leaders in charge of problem facilities.

Last week, Mr. Gibson made his first public appearances as acting VA secretary, traveling to Phoenix and San Antonio to address ongoing issues concerning patient scheduling procedures and wait times for appointments.

“We now know there is a leadership and integrity problem among some of the leaders of our health care facilities, which can and must be fixed,” Mr. Gibson said in Phoenix Thursday. “That breach of integrity is indefensible.”

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