VA Audit Shows 57,000 Patients Waiting For First Appointment

By  KJZZ News
June 09, 2014

The Veterans Affairs Department says more than 57,000 patients are still waiting for initial medical appointments at VA hospitals and clinics 90 days or more after requesting them. Another 64,000 who enrolled in the VA health care system over the past 10 years have never had appointments.

An audit of VA hospitals and outpatient clinics, released Monday, also found that 13 percent of VA schedulers reported being told by supervisors to falsify appointment dates to make waiting times appear shorter.

Also Monday, there will be more testimony in Washington on the Department of Veterans Affairs scheduling scandal.

Representatives from the VA inspector general’s office and the Government Accountability Office are scheduled to appear before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

The hearing will examine an interim report from the inspector general’s office. That report confirmed complaints made by a retired doctor that hospital staffers were delaying appointments for hundreds of veterans. Those delays were hidden and falsely improved performance ratings for the Phoenix hospital.

Similar practices has been reported at other VA hospitals across the country.

The Phoenix VA hospital director and two other senior were placed on administrative leave and former VA secretary Eric Shinseki was forced to resign as a result of the ongoing scandal.

The acting secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department, Sloan Gibson, says he’s getting close to the bottom of the patient neglect at the VA.

Gibson says the audit includes a very comprehensive list of patient wait times, by location, and that nothing will be off limits.

“I have a natural bias for openness and transparency. I think in a situation like that it demands even more. Communication, openness and transparency and that’s what I’m determined that this department will deliver," Gibson said.

Gibson says the more involved list aims to shed light on what was behind the deaths of 18 patients who were not on a formal wait list for treatment. The investigation will look into whether the vets died as a result of delayed care at the VA.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.