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9-Jun-2014: According to the Washington Post, a nationwide audit by the Department of Veteran Affairs found that 57,000 veterans have been waiting more than 90 days for an appointment and that an additional 64,000 requested medical care but never made it onto VA waiting lists.
And VA’s own audit found that 13 percent of VA schedulers were told to falsify appointment request dates to make patient wait times appear shorter and that at least one instance of that fraud was found at 76 percent of VA facilities.
“This data shows the extent of the system problems we face,” acting VA secretary Sloan Gibson [and former USO President] said, “problems that demand immediate actions.”
Gibson — who took over on May 30 after his predecessor, Eric K. Shinseki, resigned under pressure — outlined a series of emergency measures Monday to ensure that veterans stuck on long waiting lists will receive care as quickly as possible in the coming days and weeks.
"Today," he continued, "we're providing the details to offer transparency into the scale of our challenges, and of our system itself. I'll repeat: this data shows the extent of the systemic problems we face, problems that demand immediate actions."
As of today, Gibson said, VA has contacted 50,000 veterans across the country to get them off of wait lists and into clinics.
Gibson also announced a series of additional actions in response to today's audit findings and data, including:
VA also is deploying teams of dedicated human resource employees to accelerate the hiring of additional staff and is using temporary staffing measures, along with clinical and administrative support, to ensure veterans receive care. The department also will send mobile medical units to facilities to immediately provide services to patients and veterans awaiting care.
In addition, VA will modify local contract operations to be able to offer more community-based care to veterans waiting to be seen by a doctor.
Noting that Gibson is committed to using all authority at VA's disposal to enforce accountability among senior leaders, officials said, VA will initiate the process of removing senior leaders where appropriate.
The department also has suspended all VHA senior executive performance awards for fiscal year 2014.
Over the course of the next several weeks, officials said, Gibson will travel to a series of VA facilities across the country to hear directly from veterans and employees about obstacles to providing timely, quality care and how VA can address them immediately.
WaPo also writes... "The near-term measures, however, are not likely to fix deeper problems that plague a VA health-care system that has struggled to accommodate more than 2 million new patients over the past five years. Some of the new veterans using VA medical centers fought in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and appear to be using VA services at rates that are significantly higher than in previous wars. VA also has struggled to handle an aging population of Vietnam veterans who have flooded the system with severe health problems, some of them linked to Agent Orange."