An internal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) watchdog confirmed allegations today of falsified records at VA healthcare facilities, and in one case, discovered that veterans were waiting 91 days longer for care than the facility was reporting.
This information was made public in the VA Office of Inspector General’s interim report on its review of the Phoenix Health Care System, where allegations of falsified records and improperly long wait times were first made public by national media. Since then, similar cases of mismanagement have been reported at VA facilities across the country on a near-daily basis, suggesting a systemic problem in the way the U.S. is managing the healthcare of its veterans.
The findings of the report are damning, and can only suggest that much worse news is to come as the IG investigates Phoenix and the rest of the VA healthcare facilities completely.
The preliminary investigation revealed that at least 1,700 veterans were waiting for care at the Phoenix Health Care System (HCS), but were not included on the official electronic waiting list. This put them at risk for getting “lost in the system,” and possibly never receiving health care at all. Official numbers from Phoenix HCS say that veterans waited on average 24 days for their first appointment and only 43 percent waited more than 14 days. In reality, those numbers were much higher: the IG discovered an average wait time of 115 days, with 84 percent waiting more than 14 days.
There are ongoing or scheduled investigations at 42 VA medical facilities and the IG’s findings so far confirm the widespread allegations. “Our reviews at a growing number of VA medical facilities have thus far provided insight into the current extent of these inappropriate scheduling issues throughout the VA health care system and have confirmed that inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic throughout VHA,” the report says.
As more evidence is collected, the IG says it will work with the Department of Justice to pursue possible criminal or civil actions against the parties responsible.
Today’s revelations confirm large-scale changes need to be made to offer veterans the care they deserve. Project On Government Oversight believes that in order to explore the right solutions, we need to first understand the extent of mismanagement at the VA. For this reason, POGO partnered with Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans of America to offer VA employees a secure way to report mismanagement. If you work inside the VA and have direct knowledge of fraud, waste or abuse, please visit www.VAOversight.org to submit information to POGO securely.