The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ has revealed that the wait times for more than 200 appointments were incorrectly recorded at a Houston-area VA facility. High ranking employees at the facility instructed their subordinates to falsify documents to make wait times appear shorter than they actually were in order to make the facility appear more competent and efficient than it actually is.
A federal report released on Monday shows that two former scheduling supervisors and a current director of two VA clinics instructed staff to falsely record appointments being cancelled by veterans when, in reality, it was the VA that was canceling the appointments. This practice led to many veterans waiting nearly three months to see a doctor.
Federal inspectors discovered that VA employees manipulated their records to make it appear as if they veterans were canceling the appointment and regularly “cooked the books” to make wait times appear up to two months shorter than they actually were.
Similar “bad practices” have been found at other VA facilities in the past. In 2014 nearly 40 patients died while waiting for care at a VA hospital in Phoenix, AZ. The Department of Veterans Affairs” blame poor training and oversight. The organization commented on the cause of the wait times in the report by stating:
“These issues have continued despite the Veterans Health Administration … having identified similar issues during a May and June 2014 system-wide review of access. These conditions persisted because of a lack of effective training and oversight.”
Other VA employees at facilities in Texas told investigators that they were also instructed by their supervisors to falsify scheduling records. However, despite these accusations supervisors and administrators at several different facilities across the the U.S. deny any institutionalized efforts to manipulate the wait time records. These high ranking employees claim that employees simply misunderstood their orders.
No criminal charges have been filed against the VA employees. The investigation will continue to determine if this practice is widespread and common among VA hospitals. The VA officials in the Houston area were instructed to provide additional training for staff to improve scheduling and audit procedures and follow several other steps to end the lingering issue.