Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Former Marine Michael Storemski talks with Christina Henson, left, following his treatment at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Oklahoma City. Storemski said that his cancer surgery was delayed for months due his surgeon's busy schedule. / Sue Ogrocki, AP

New figures released by Veterans Affairs show far more veterans are waiting at least a month to see doctors than initially reported.

More than 10% of veterans who seek out care wait at least 30 days for an appointment - more than double what the agency reported in an audit earlier this month.

Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson called the increase unfortunate but said it was probably an indication that more reliable data was being reported by VA schedulers, according to the Associated Press,

Gibson said the agency has contacted about 70,000 veterans trying to get them quicker medical care. The number of appointments pending with the agency has increased 200,000 since an initial audit was released two weeks ago, indicating that veterans who previously unsuccessfully sought care were entering the system.

Some medical centers showed significant improvement in their backlog times already, as veterans with the longest waits got in to see doctors. In Tampa, Pittsburgh and Chicago, among other places, new patients with pending appointments were waiting, on average, about two weeks less for an appointment.

An audit released earlier in June showed that as of May 15, a total of 57,436 veterans across the country had waited 90 days to see a doctor and still did not have an appointment, 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. That number had been cut to 46,000 by June 1, according to the new figures.

Earlier this month, acting VA Inspector General Richard Griffin told a House committee that his investigators identified "some supervisors" in the department who ordered manipulations of appointment data. Griffin says his office is reviewing with the federal prosecutors whether criminal charges will be filed against the VA supervisors.

The systematic manipulation of appointment 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.

Investigators 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.

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.

Gibson said early in June that 18 Arizona veterans had died while awaiting doctor's appointments at the hospital in Phoenix. But he said it is unclear whether their deaths were the result of those delays.

A key problem that surfaced at the VA hospital in Phoenix, where the scandal first erupted when a retired doctor raised red flags, were allegations of "secret lists" of hundreds of veterans who could not be seen by a doctor because none were available.

The VA audit released in early June revealed that there was at least some level of manipulated scheduling at three out of every four agency medical facilities - whether a hospital or a clinic. Unofficial lists of veterans whose care was delayed were kept at 70% of medical facilities, the audit found.

It found instances in which appointment records were altered at 90 VA outpatient clinics. At 24 sites, staffers said "they felt threatened or coerced to enter" false appointment dates by superiors.

Staffers at 14 facilities said they were punished for not manipulating appointment records. "A number of respondents presented detailed descriptions or instructions from supervisors to change or alter date," the report said.

Staffers described "a numbers-driven system with unrealistic performance measures as having created a highly stressful work environment that limits the focus on serving the veteran," according to the report.

The VA has said it will cost an estimated $300 million in the next two to three months to pay for non-VA care for those veterans who can't be seen quickly enough at a department hospital or clinic.

An initial audit report that Shinseki provided President Obama, along with an offer to resign on May 30 - an offer the president accepted the same day - described a health system with a "systemic lack of integrity."

The VA has already removed its 14-day waiting-time goal from employee performance plans and suspended all senior executive bonuses tied to performance.

A VA system of 150 hospitals and 820 outpatient clinics treats about 6 million veterans each year and has 9 million enrolled as patients. While the nation's total population of veterans is declining - as the massive World War II and Korean War generations die - an aging population coupled with the influx of new veterans from the most recent wars has led to steady increases in outpatient appointments to nearly 85 million a year.

Contributing: Gregg Zoroya and the Associated Press



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: New numbers show more vets waiting as VA clears backlog

More In

test

Real Deals

Flip, shop and save on specials from your favorite retailers in central Ohio.

GET DEALS | COUPONS

Things To Do

WED
26
THU
27
FRI
28
SAT
29
SUN
30
MON
1
TUE
2

CLASSIFIEDS

Classifieds from across Central Ohio
Lancaster
Chillicothe
Newark
Marion
Bucyrus
Mansfield
Zanesville
Coshocton

Weeklies & Shoppers

10TV Headlines

Dispatch Headlines

METROMIX