Washington, DC, United States (4E) – More than 57,000 veterans waited for initial appointments at Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals and clinics around the country for 90 days instead of 14 days, according to a report of the agency’s internal audit of the problem released on Monday.
The report on the audit of 731 VA medical centers also said that rank-and-file VA employees or schedulers were directed to manipulate records to make it appear that the waiting time was short. Complicated scheduling practices confused clerks and supervisors contributing to longer wait time while the 14-day waiting period for veterans’ healthcare request to be accommodated was unattainable because of the growing demand for care among veterans, the report added.
The audit findings bolster the VA inspector general’s earlier findings that VA hospitals have falsified appointment records to hide treatment delays. The uproar caused by the anomaly forced VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign on May 30.
The report recommended actions to address the long wait times. These are ending the 14-day goal, contacting patients to get them off wait lists, holding employees and officials accountable for records manipulation, stopping hiring at the Veterans Health Administration headquarters in Washington, D.C. and publishing data on wait times twice per month.
The VA also will distribute about $300 million over the next 60 to 90 days to help accelerate care, including through increased hours and by contracting with non-VA health clinics.