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Disabled vets waited months for wheelchair repairs because VA staff ‘lost track’ – IG

Veterans attend the opening ceremony inside The Silver Tree Hotel March 29 for the 23rd National Disabled American Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)
March 19, 2018

Disabled veterans had to wait on average more than two months for their wheelchairs to be fixed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to an audit by the VA’s inspector general.

The findings showed that the disabled veterans had to wait more than double the OIG’s established 30-day timeliness benchmark.

The Washington Free Beacon was the first to report on the inspector general’s findings.

Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 7 VA medical facilities, also known as the VA’s southeast network, made disabled veterans wait, on average, 69 days on 40 percent of repairs in Fiscal Year 2016.

The inspector general found that the VA medical facilities did not establish a “timeliness standard” for scooter and power wheelchair repairs despite the inspector general having a 30-day standard for such repairs.

“The OIG’s review of a statistical sample of power wheelchair and scooter repairs at eight VA medical facilities in VISN 7 identified a projected 380 veterans, including 39 Atlanta HCS veterans, who experienced delays in the completion of approximately 480 of the VISN’s projected 1,200 [Fiscal Year] 2016 repairs (40 percent),” the audit said.

“These delays occurred because staff and Prosthetic Service managers at the respective VISN 7 VA medical facilities did not always effectively manage and monitor repair requests,” the inspector general said. “VA medical facility staff, including Prosthetic Service staff, did not always promptly input repair requests in the consult management system so the requests could be properly tracked.”

“The OIG’s review of veterans’ medical records could not confirm that veterans experienced financial hardships due to delayed power wheelchair and scooter repairs, but it did find some veterans experienced physical hardships like confinement to a bed and a missed medical appointment due to the delays,” the inspector general audit continued.

In one case, a veteran had to wait seven months before casters on his power wheelchair were replaced.

“The Prosthetic Service staff opened the consult, maintained it as pending until he issued a purchase order to purchase the casters, and then closed the consult. The purchasing agent had the parts delivered to the veteran’s home but did not issue another purchase order to have the casters installed. Subsequently, Prosthetic Service staff lost track of the repair and did not issue another purchase order to have the casters installed until 163 days after the agent shipped the parts to the veteran,” the audit said.

“VA medical facilities in VISN 7, including the Atlanta HCS, need to focus on monitoring and measuring the timeliness of power wheelchair and scooter repairs from the veterans’ initial request through completion,” the inspector general concluded. “Information in VHA’s consult management system, by itself, does not provide VA medical facility and Prosthetic Service management sufficient information to effectively monitor and ensure the timeliness of power wheelchair and scooter repairs.”