VA Wait List Times Jump Even While Department Under Investigation
A Veterans Affairs access audit found that wait times for veterans to see a doctor jumped even as the department was coming under fire for alleged secret wait lists.
A criminal investigation is probing claims that veterans died waiting for appointments and were shuffled onto secret wait lists in order to create better stats for the VA system. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned May 30.
A new audit from the VA, though, shows that wait times got worse as the scandal unfolded.
Out of 141 audited nationwide, 6,004,350 appointments were scheduled as of May 15, with 242,069 of those over 30 days.
On June 1, that 4 percent rate had jumped to more than 10 percent.
As of that day, 6,186,720 were scheduled and 621,985 of those had passed the 30-day mark. In the audit of June 15 appointments, 6,187,973 were scheduled and 636,436 of these waited more than 30 days.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson today, asking for an explanation of "this across-the-board, unacceptable rise."
"Simply put, the VA seems to be going in exactly the wrong direction in seeking to address dangerous and deadly health care delays," Blumenthal said, noting that in some states the wait time had quadrupled. "...Such statistics raise serious questions. Why are the wait times increasing? Is there a lack of administrative resources? A shortage of doctors or other critical health care professionals? Are the numbers themselves valid and consistently reported?"
"The VA cannot improve the delivery of health care or restore trust and confidence in its integrity and effectiveness without clearly and accurately explaining these numbers."
Blumenthal also called on the VA more than a month ago to release results of site-specific audits "in order to provide the public -- and especially the veterans and their families who use the health care services provided at these facilities – with a clear understanding of the scope of the problems at those facilities."
President Obama's nominee to replace Shinseki, former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald, is making the rounds on the Hill this week to meet with senators. Tomorrow afternoon McDonald will sit down with Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).