At least 1,700 military veterans waiting to see a doctor were never scheduled for an appointment and never placed on a wait list at the Veterans Affairs facility in Phoenix, raising the question of just how many may have been “forgotten or lost” in the system, according to a preliminary report made public Wednesday.
Describing a “systemic” practice of manipulating appointments and wait lists at the Phoenix facility, the VA’s Office of Inspector General called for a nationwide review to determine whether veterans at other locations were falling through the cracks.
It also appears to indicate the scope of the investigation is rapidly widening, with 42 VA facilities across the country now under investigation for possible abuse of scheduling practices, according to the report.
The preliminary report sparked outrage from all corners, with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki calling the findings “reprehensible” and ordering the 1,700 veterans be immediately “triaged” for care, while at least one prominent lawmaker called for the agency’s chief to resign.
The VA is under fire over allegations of alarming shortcomings at its medical facilities. The controversy, as CNN first reported, involves delayed care with potentially fatal consequences in possibly dozens of cases.
CNN has reported that in Phoenix, the VA used fraudulent record-keeping — including an alleged secret list — that covered up excessive waiting periods for veterans, some of whom died in the process.
The big questions remain under investigation, according to the report: Did the facility’s electronic wait list omit the names of veterans waiting for care and, if so, at who’s direction?
And were the deaths of any of these veterans related to delays in care?
“To date our work has substantiated serious conditions at the Phoenix facility,” said the report, which also found another 1,400 veterans at the Phoenix VA who did not have a doctor’s appointment but were on the VA’s formal electronic wait list.
The report also found “numerous allegations” of “daily of mismanagement, inappropriate hiring decisions, sexual harassment, and bullying behavior by mid- and senior-level managers.”
SOURCE: Chelsea J. Carter