WASHINGTON (May 30, 2014)--A preliminary Veterans Affairs audit of widespread health care problems for veterans concludes that in some cases VA schedulers were pressured to use bad practices to make waiting times for medical appointments look more favorable.
Veterans Affairs Secretary presented the audit to President Barack Obama Friday before submitting his resignation.
The audit says a decision to set a maximum 14-day wait time for appointments without necessary resources amounted to an failure in organizational leadership.
The audit found that in some instances schedulers were instructed to enter different desired dates than the one requested by the veteran, thus masking waiting times.
A separate inspector general's report this week found significant problems in the sprawling veterans' health care system, which provides medical care to about 6.5 million veterans annually.
WASHINGTON (May 30, 2014) Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki resigned Friday in the wake of revelations of widespread problems in the veterans’ health care system.
President Barack Obama said he accepted the resignation with "considerable regret."
He and Shinseki met Friday morning in the Oval Office.
Mr. Obama named Sloan Gibson, now the VA’s deputy secretary, to take the reins of the department temporarily.
Gibson joined the VA after five years as president and CEO of the USO, which serves U.S. troops and their families.
Before that, Gibson spent 20 years in the banking industry.
He is the son of an Army Air Corpsman who served in World War II, the grandson of a World War I Army infantryman and a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Shinseki's resignation comes just days after the release of a scathing report from the agency’s inspector general.
The report found that veterans seeking care at the Phoenix VA hospital waited on average 115 days for their first medical appointments.
The report reviewed a statistical sample of 226 appointments at the hospital, which had reported that the 226 veterans waited 24 days on average for their first primary care appointments.
The report also identified about 1,400 veterans who didn’t have primary care appointments, but who were appropriately included on the hospital’s electronic wait list and another 1,700 who were waiting for primary care appointments who weren’t on the waiting list.
Shinseki is a retired four-star Army general who has overseen the VA since the start of Obama's presidency.
Before resigning Friday, he announced several steps he was taking in response to the report’s findings and apologized for the widespread delays at VA medical centers.
“I can’t explain the lack of integrity amongst some of the leaders of our healthcare facilities and so I will not defend it because it is indefensible, but I can take responsibility for it and I do.”
Before stepping down Shinseki removed senior leaders from the Phoenix VA Medical Center, canceled this year’s performance bonuses for senior VA health executives and eliminated patient wait times as a factor in employee performance evaluations.
In response to the findings in the preliminary report, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, called on President Barack Obama to order an FBI investigation of the VA.
On Friday he said he’s glad the president and Shinseki heeded calls for new leadership at the VA.
“As a decorated service member, Sec. Shinseki served his country well but his time at the VA has been marked by gross inefficiencies and mismanagement,” Cornyn said.
"President Obama must quickly nominate someone from outside the broken bureaucracy of the VA to implement immediate changes focused on providing our veterans with the care they deserve,” he said.
An internal review of the Temple VA started on May 12, according to Deborah Meyer, the Public Affairs Officer for the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System.
KWTX requests for wait times and number of veterans on lists to see primary care physicians are still pending.