VA Wait Times Still an Issue: Houston Branch Lied About Vets Canceling Appointments
Contrary to popular belief, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is not getting better. An Inspector General (IG) report released Monday revealed excessive abuse in Houston, Texas. The report found that leadership at the VA medical center instructed staff to cancel veterans' appointments and record those cancellations as requested by the veteran. It also found that records understated many wait times, revealing systemic incompetence in the organization.
"Getting an appointment at the VA is much like the lottery -- maybe you get lucky, maybe you don't," Cody McGregor, national outreach director at Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) and a retired Army sniper who lives in Houston, told PJ Media in an interview Tuesday. He denounced VA staff as "manipulating the lives of people who have sacrificed everything."
The report found that "two previous scheduling advisors and a current director of two CBOCs [Community Based Outpatient Clinics] instructed staff to input clinic cancellations incorrectly as canceled by patient." The IG found that out of 373 appointments, staff incorrectly recorded 223 as canceled by the veteran.
While the staff rescheduled veterans' appointments for 219 of these 223 appointments, they did not reschedule the remaining four. Even worse, 94 of the rescheduled appointments were set beyond 30 days, with veterans waiting an average of 81 days.
Worse, this is an average of 78 days longer than shown in the VA's electronic scheduling system. And schedulers did not even use the correct clinically indicated or preferred appointment date for 54 of the appointments.
The orders came from the top, according to the IG report. "We also confirmed that a current director of two CBOCs instructed staff, as recently as February 2016, to record an appointment as canceled by patient if clinic staff at the CBOC offered to reschedule a veteran's appointment at a different CBOC situated about 17 miles away and the veteran declined the appointment."
This is not even an isolated incident either, McGregor argued. As of the end of last month, more than 480,000 veterans continue to wait more than 30 days to get an appointment with a doctor. This number has increased 140,000 since October 2014, when the VA scandal first broke.
Next Page: One veteran even has had to wait over 9 MONTHS for surgery -- and the VA is hiring more non-medical staff than doctors.