Washington, DC, United States (4E) – Initial findings by the inspector general (IG) at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) confirm allegations of long wait times for veterans to get medical appointment.
The IG’s interim report published on the VA website Wednesday said “inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic throughout” the agency’s health care system as 226 veterans at the Phoenix VA hospital waited on average 115 days for their first primary care appointment when VA rules require a maximum 14 days wait time.
The report also said that 1,700 veterans waiting for primary care at the same hospital at the center of a national scandal are not in the official electronic wait lists, thus understating wait times and boosting job performance evaluations of staffs so they can get awards and salary increases.
The veterans risk being forgotten and may never get a requested or required clinical appointment, the report said.
The IG is still investigating if the long wait times and irregularities resulted in deaths as alleged by a whistleblower last year.
Retired VA doctor Sam Foote claimed that administrators were falsifying records to show that veterans were seeing doctors with minimal waits and that up to 40 patients had died awaiting care while VA bosses collected incentive pay for meeting performance goals set by department headquarters.
The report said 42 other VA hospitals are being investigated for similar irregularities and but findings are not yet available.
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the VA committee, called for a criminal probe into the VA scandal and the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon said it would be best if General Shinseki stepped down so a new leader can take over.
Shinseki said he directed the Phoenix VA Health Care System (VAHCS) to immediately triage each of the 1,700 Veterans identified by the OIG to bring them timely care. He also said that the Phoenix VAHCS leadership were put on administrative leave.