Veterans Affairs Audit Shows Over 100,000 U.S. Veterans Face Long Waits to See Doctors

The Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in Phoenix is at the epicenter of the agency's wait-time scandal. (Photo: Getty Images)
The Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in Phoenix is at the epicenter of the agency’s wait-time scandal.
(Photo: Getty Images)

Some 100,000 veterans across the country are waiting long periods to see doctors, according to an internal Department of Veterans Affairs audit released Monday.

The VA says it already has contacted 50,000 veterans trying to get them quicker medical care.

A total of 57,436 veterans across the country have waited 90 days to see a doctor and still did not have an appointment as of May 15, the VA said. The agency also found evidence that in the past 10 years, nearly 64,000 veterans who sought VA care were simply never seen by a doctor.

“VA is moving aggressively to contact these veterans,” the audit report said.

The systematic manipulation of appointments records across the massive veterans health care system to show high performance when there wasn’t any led former secretary Eric Shinseki to resign late last month.

It remains unclear how many veterans were harmed by delays in care, although at least hundreds of thousands within a year’s time were forced to wait longer to see a doctor than the ambitious timetable of 14 days established by the agency.

Sloan Gibson, the interim secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, said last week that 18 Arizona veterans had died while awaiting doctor appointments at the hospital in Phoenix. But he said it is unclear whether their deaths were the result of those delays.

Investigators have found that 13% of VA schedulers across the country were instructed how to set up appointments at the convenience of an overburdened system rather than the veteran and that 8% kept unofficial lists of patients whose care was delayed.

An analysis of data made public Monday shows that at 19 VA facilities across the country, new patients were waiting longer than 60 days to see a primary care doctor in May. The longest delays were in Hawaii, where veterans were waiting an average of 145 days to see a primary doctor for the first time. At the Hawaii facility, the time elapsed was nearly 100 days longer than what had been officially reported.

Independent of the audit by the VA is an investigation into the scandal by the agency’s inspector general, who is currently probing appointment record manipulation at 42 hospitals or clinics across the country. That investigation is continuing.

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Source: USA Today | Gregg Zoroya

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