The Phoenix Veterans Affairs office has built a new backlog of cases and has canceled appointments due to questionable reasons as more than 200 veterans died waiting for care in 2015, according to a new report released by the department’s inspector general.
Investigators say some veterans are waiting six months or longer for treatment, and staff are canceling appointments for questionable reasons — all factors that investigators say could have saved at least one veteran’s life.
A report from 2014 found that top executives at the VA cooked their books, canceled appointments, and put patients onto secret wait lists to reduce the appearance of their backlogs, all in an effort to earn performance bonuses, The Washington Times reported.
The problems were first reported at the Phoenix VA, where numerous veterans died waiting for care, but investigators found similar problems of secret wait lists and canceled appointments at VA centers throughout the country.
Investigators found that nearly 25 percent of specialty care consultations were “inappropriately discontinued” due to poor communication among staffers, The Washington Times reported.
The VA employees either didn’t give a reason for the cancellation or didn’t bother to follow up and reschedule after a veteran missed an appointment.
Agency rules require a veteran to not show up to an appointment at least twice or multiple failed rescheduling attempts before an appointment can be canceled, The Washington Times reported.
The VA, in reply to the inspector general’s report, says that things have improved since the initial 2014 report despite the problems that still remain.
Undersecretary for Health David J. Shulkin said that the number of patients who wait over 90 days for an appointment went down by 64 percent, and most of the ones that have been waiting aren’t considered urgent.
Dr. Shulkin also said that many veterans received care, but the department hasn’t updated its records.
“VHA is strongly committed to developing long-term solutions that mitigate risks to the timeliness, cost-effectiveness, quality and safety of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system,” he said.