VA Investigations May Be Headed Toward Prosecutions

By:  Thomas R. Eddlem
05/30/2014
       
VA Investigations May Be Headed Toward Prosecutions

The May 28 release of a scathing Veterans Administration Office of Inspector General (OIG) report on dishonest scheduling practices at the VA clinics in the Phoenix, Arizona, area has produced calls for — and reports of — investigations for criminal prosecution of the rogue officials who wrote the fraudulent reports.

“What I've heard today is there is no accountability for any of these,” Congressman Tim Huelscamp (R-Kan.) noted of VA officials in a May 29 Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing. “35 reports — ten years later, almost a decade later — we are still here trying to get answers asked in 2005.” Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) echoed Huelscamp's calls for prosecutions, stating: "The more I learn about the misconduct and impropriety at the VA medical facility, the more concerned I am there's evidence of criminal wrongdoing.”

According to Fox News,

The investigation "includes OIG criminal investigators as well as federal prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona and the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department in Washington, D.C." They are working, he said, to "determine any conduct that we discover that merits criminal prosecution."

The interim VA OIG report concluded that the Phoenix VA system had essentially created a waiting list to get on the official electronic waiting list (EWL) and had used other dishonest scheduling practices to make it appear that waiting times for appointments were much shorter than they really were: 

VA national wait time data, which was reported by Phoenix HCS, showed these 226 veterans waited on average 24 days for their primary appointment and only 43 percent waited more than 14 days. However, our review found these 226 veterans waited on average 115 days for their primary care appointment, and an estimated 84 percent waited more than 14 days. Most of the wait time discrepancies occurred because of delays between the veteran’s requested appointment date and the date the appointment was created.

The VA OIG outlined four separate means by which VA appointment schedulers were able to game the system, the most prominent of which was by keeping an off-the-books waiting list to get on to the official electronic waiting list.

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