JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Concerned Veterans for America is pointing to a new audit that it says proves VA employees are still manipulating patient wait times, and is pushing for new laws that would give veterans access to timely health care.
Last week, the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General released its results of a new audit confirming widespread wait time inaccuracies at VA medical facilities in North Carolina and Virginia.
The OIG's audit found wait time numbers are “significantly higher” than the numbers reported in the Veterans Health Administration’s scheduling system. CVA explains this happened because VA schedulers documented the scheduled appointment time as the "desired appointment time" instead of the "requested appointment time."
As a result, veterans who were eligible for the Choice Program and who could have sought care at a doctor of their choosing, were forced to wait for care at the VA.
Of 15,300 appointments audited, in which veterans should have been added to the Veterans Choice List, OIG estimates VA staff did not identify 90 percent of them to be added to the list.
“The VA has consistently failed at their number one priority: to provide veterans access to timely health care," said CVA Policy Director Dan Caldwell in a statement. "The fact that VA employees across the country are still engaging in inappropriate scheduling practices shows just how dysfunctional the department still is. Accountability and choice reforms at the VA are simply not an option anymore – they are an urgent necessity."
CVA says it is supporting two pieces of legislation to help give military veterans the timely health care they need and deserve.
First is the Caring for Our Heroes in the 21st Century Act. This draft legislation, introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) last year, would empower veterans to seek care inside or outside the VA at their own discretion.
The second piece of legislation CVA supports is the 2017 VA Accountability First Act. The Senate version was introduced last week by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and the House version was introduced by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN.) If it passes, it would make it easier to terminate bad VA employees and help bring a new culture of accountability.
In the meantime, CVA is pushing Congress to re-authorize the current Choice Card program this August until more permanent reforms can take hold.
VA OIG's investigations into wait times follows the scandal of wait-time manipulation at the Phoenix VA Health Care System in 2014. After that, VA received numerous allegations from veterans, VA employees and members of Congress of the same thing happening at VA facilities nationwide.