Data from the VA OIG investigation indicates that the Wait List Scandal impacted over 100,000 veterans through extended wait times or not being listed on a wait list, at all. The investigation is VA's attempt to answer the "who, what, when" of the scandal, and the feedback from it is shocking in scope.
Initially, CNN reported the scandal likely involved between 1,400 to 1,600 veterans in the Phoenix VAMC system. Later, the official number following VA OIG inspection was 1,700. Now that VA has conducted its thorough investigation of all VA health care facilities, we know the problem was systemic. Over 100,000 veterans were affected.
Policies leading up the scandal resulted in misrepresentations of wait list times affecting over 57,000 veterans. Another 64,000 veterans were not even on an electronic wait list waiting for appointments with VA doctors.
The audit conducted by VA OIG across 731 VA facilities revealed a plethora of problems. To address them in the short term, Secretary Sloan Gibson has implemented the following policies:
- Remove the 14-day scheduling goal: The 14-day scheduling goal is “unattainable” and encourages gaming of system to meet cash bonuses. Incentives will be removed.
- Establishing new patient surveys: Gibson has abolished the old standard regarding its reportedly biased patient surveys. New surveys may be more accurate.
- Accountability: Senior leaders caught up in this current scandal will be targeted for administrative action and/or dismissal.
- Hiring freeze: VA has implemented a hiring freeze except for noncritical positions.
- Increased medical staffing: VA will increase hiring at VHA facilities of doctors to help reduce wait times immediately.
- Increasing transparency: Wait time data will be published by VHA twice monthly.
Benjamin Krause is an award winning investigative journalist, attorney, and disabled veteran of the US Air Force, where he served in its Special Operations Command. He wrote his guide, the Voc Rehab Survival Guide for Veterans, after winning his long fight for benefits against VA to help other veterans do the same. Benjamin is a graduate of Northwestern University and the University of Minnesota Law School using VA Vocational Rehabilitation.