After thorough investigations, it was found that Veterans Affairs (VA) authorities were falsifying patient wait-times in seven states across the United States.
According to the recently unveiled reports, these states were able to meet VA performance measures with shorter wait times by fabricating data and not by improving service.
The states involved in the falsification scandal were New York, California, Texas, Vermont, Illinois, Delaware, and Arkansas. This is the first time reports showed how unbridled the VA wait-time manipulation is in the department.
It was back in 2014 in Phoenix when the US handled with the last wait-time scandal. Before that, investigations mentioned that the wait-time alteration was “systematic,” but they didn’t disclose the names of the problematic cities. They also did not give details about the severity of the wait-time falsification.
But in the new reports, investigators decided to make public the 40 VA medical facilities located in 19 states and Puerto Rico that “zeroed out” veteran wait-times on the regular.
As time passes, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who come back to the US are aging, which means they have increasing needs for health care, but thanks to the wait-time falsification, these demands were shrouded.
In some of the cases disclosed in the reports, the system almost “encouraged” such wait-time maneuvering, even though there was not clear order from VA supervisors.
For example, VA schedulers in Harlingen, Texas came forwards saying that their supervisors were frowning upon booking VA appointments with longer wait-times.
And according to Florida Republican Rep. Jeff Miller, who is also the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee director, “almost no one has been seriously held accountable for any of this wrongdoing.”
In what he calls “classic VA fashion,” only four low-level employees have been fired from the department for wait-time manipulation.
After the Phoenix 2014 scandal, the inspector general was determined to put an end to this practice so VA investigations were conducted in over 100 facilities. Reports showed the wait-time manipulation was so widespread that some centers have been practicing it for nearly ten years.
According to VA undersecretary for health Dr. David Shulkin, 29 individuals were already under disciplinary actions for being involved in the wait-time scandals. The agency also retrained thousands of VA schedulers, added evening and weekend hours, expanded appointments and hired 14,000 new providers.
The Department of Veterans Affairs also launched a new program that allows veterans to make their own appointments; it is currently being tested in 10 facilities, but it will soon roll out nationwide.
Image Source: Task and Purpose