KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Wait Times Of 115 Days, Hidden Patient Lists Detailed In VA Report

The inspector general's preliminary findings reveal that 1,700 patients at the veterans center in Phoenix were not on the official waiting list and that the average wait for new patients who did get appointments was nearly four months.

The New York Times: Severe Report Finds V.A. Hid Waiting Lists
In the first confirmation that Department of Veterans Affairs administrators manipulated medical waiting lists at one and possibly more hospitals, the department’s inspector general reported on Wednesday that 1,700 patients at the veterans medical center in Phoenix were not placed on the official waiting list for doctors’ appointments and may never have received care. The scathing report by Richard J. Griffin, the acting inspector general, validates allegations raised by whistle-blowers and others that Veterans Affairs officials in Phoenix employed artifices to cloak long waiting times for veterans seeking medical care (Oppel and Shear, 5/28). 

Politico: Eric Shinseki: I’m Fixing The VA
Facing growing calls from Congress to step down, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki on Thursday defended himself and vowed to "set things straight." "We are doing all we can to accelerate access to care throughout our system and in communities where veterans reside," Shinseki wrote in an op-ed in USA Today. "I've challenged our leadership to ensure we are doing everything possible to schedule veterans for their appointments. We, at the Department of Veterans Affairs, are redoubling our efforts, with commitment and compassion, to restore integrity to our processes to earn veterans' trust" (Topaz, 5/29).

The Wall Street Journal: 'Serious Conditions' At Phoenix Veterans Affairs Office, Watchdog Says
A watchdog's report found systemic problems at Department of Veterans Affairs health-care facilities, including improper procedures for scheduling patient appointments and efforts to hide excessive wait times, increasing the pressure on embattled VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. ... The White House said Mr. Obama found the interim report "extremely troubling" and wants the Veterans Administration to take immediate steps to improve access to care, a spokesman said Wednesday (Kesling, 5/28). 

The Washington Post: 'Troubling' Report Sparks New Wave Of Calls For VA Chief's Resignation
The agency has made it a goal to schedule appointments for veterans seeking medical care within 30 days. But the interim IG report found that in the 226-case sample, the average wait for a veteran seeking a first appointment was 115 days, a period officials allegedly tried to hide by placing veterans on "secret lists" until an appointment could be found in the appropriate time frame (Lowery and Hicks, 5/28).

Los Angeles Times: Pressure Grows On VA Chief Eric Shinseki To Quit After Critical Report
Shinseki "has said that VA will fully and aggressively implement the recommendations" of the inspector general, Carney said. "The president agrees with that action and reaffirms that the VA needs to do more to improve veterans' access to care. Our nation's veterans have served our country with honor and courage, and they deserve to know they will have the care and support they deserve" (Simon and Carcamo, 5/28).

The Arizona Republic: VA Inspector General Verifies Wait-Time Manipulations
The Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general on Wednesday confirmed whistle-blower allegations that the Phoenix VA Health Care System violated patient scheduling policies to conceal delays in medical care. However, investigators said that it will take more analysis to determine whether any veteran deaths resulted directly from falsified records and prolonged waits (Wagner, 5/28).

Reuters:  U.S. Veterans Health Probe Confirms Cover-Up Of Care Delays
Calls for U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign grew louder on Wednesday as the agency's inspector general confirmed "systemic" and widespread VA scheduling abuses to cover up long wait times for veterans' healthcare. The Department of Veterans Affairs' internal watchdog is probing manipulation of appointment data at 42 VA medical centers, up from 26 last week, it said in an interim report on allegations of secret waiting lists (Lawder, Rampton and Edwards, 5/28).

NPR: Report Finds Systemic Problems With VA Wait Lists
In a new report released Wednesday, the inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs says that the department has frequently manipulated records to hide medical care delays. Investigators focused their probe on a hospital in Phoenix, Ariz (Lawrence, 5/28). 

NBC News: VA Report Confirms Allegations At Phoenix Hospital 
A report from the Veterans' Administration Office of Inspector General identified at least 1,700 veterans at the agency's beleaguered Phoenix clinic who were not properly registered on waiting lists, putting them "at risk of being forgotten or lost." The independent report, released Wednesday, confirmed recent allegations that VA locations have been relying on sketchy scheduling practices amid treatment delays, some of which have resulted in the deaths of vets (Chuck and O'Donnell, 4/28).

CBS News: Growing Calls For Eric Shinseki To Resign In Wake Of New VA Report 
An interim report released Wednesday by the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General concluded that patients experienced "significant delays" in treatment at a VA health care facility in Phoenix, Ariz., providing the administration's first official confirmation of problems that have been widely reported in recent weeks. "While our work is not complete, we have substantiated that significant delays in access to care negatively impacted the quality of care at this medical facility," the report explained (Miller, 5/28).

Fox News: Watchdog Finds 'Systemic' Problems At VA, Shinseki Faces Bipartisan Calls To Resign 
The official watchdog for the Department of Veterans Affairs claimed in a scathing report that the department has a "systemic" problem with clinics lying about patient wait times, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle joined calls for Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign (5/29).

Meanwhile, one senator is not backing down from his criticism of some veterans groups.

Politico: Richard Burr: No Apology To Veterans' Groups
Sen. Richard Burr said on Wednesday that he isn’t backing down from his recent attack on veterans’ groups and even stepped up his assault, charging the organizations are more upset by his comments than they are by the scandal at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. "I absolutely stand by my statement," the North Carolina Republican said in an email to POLITICO, referring to his controversial open letter blasting some of the organizations for not pressing for the ouster of Secretary Eric Shinseki in the wake of the VA scandal (Topaz, 5/28).

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