Audit Flags Local VA For Further Review

An audit that found that more than 100,000 Veterans Affairs patients are either still waiting for appointments or have never had them has flagged a local VA medical center for further review.

Temple VA Medical Center (File)

WASHINGTON (June 9, 2014) An audit of 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics that found that more than 57,000 patients are still waiting for initial medical appointments 90 days or more after requesting them and that 64,000 others who enrolled in the VA health care system over the past 10 years have never had appointments, flagged the Temple VA Medical Center for further review.

The audit "shows the extent of the systemic problems we face, problems that demand immediate actions," acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said Monday.

"As of today, VA has contacted 50,000 veterans across the country to get them off of wait lists and into clinics. Veterans deserve to have full faith in their VA, and they will keep hearing from us until all our Veterans receive the care they’ve earned.”

Auditors visited VA facilities in May in both Temple and Waco.

Some of the sites visited in the first phase of the audit, including Temple “were flagged because of concerns that indicated undesired scheduling practices or because detailed responses by interviewed staff indicated they had received instruction to modify scheduling dates...,” the audit said.

“The listing of these sites should be understood as a preliminary step, and further actions will be taken after the determination of the extent of issues related to scheduling and access management practices,” the audit said.

The audit says a 14-day goal for seeing first-time patients was unattainable given the growing demand among veterans for health care and poor planning.

The VA has since abandoned that goal.

The audit released Monday says 13 percent of VA schedulers reported supervisors telling them to falsify appointment dates to make waiting times appear shorter.

The audit also flagged VA facilities in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Corpus Christi, Harlingen, McAllen and Big Spring.

The audit found that 94 percent of Temple VA appointments were scheduled within 30 days or less of a reference date and that 6 percent were scheduled within more than 30 days of the date.

The average wait time for a new primary care patient at the Temple VA is 49.86 days compared to 7.6 days for an established patient.

For specialist care, a new patient waited 54.25 days compared to 5.46 days for an established patient, and for mental health care a new patient waited 35.89 days on average compared to 2.97 days for an existing patient, the audit found.

Facilities in Harlingen, El Paso, Dallas and Amarillo had waits for new patients that were among the longest, the audit showed.

The Texas Valley Coastal Bend facility in Harlingen averaged a 145-day wait for new patients seeking specialist care, the nation's worst backlog.

The next longest was El Paso's medical center at 90 days.

U.S. Sen. John Coryn, R-Texas, renewed his call for a criminal investigation after the release of the audit Monday.

“This report makes it clear that the only people benefiting from our current VA health care system are the bureaucrats who put their own bonuses over veterans’ care,” he said.

“Now that we have further confirmation of the systemic nature of these problems, President Obama must direct the FBI to investigate the allegations of criminal misconduct. Our nation’s veterans deserve access to a health care system that puts their needs as the top priority.”

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