A Veterans Affair audit conducted in May revealed that more than 57,000 veterans have been forced to wait three months or more for their first appointments at VA clinics or hospitals, and another 64,000 newly enrolled patients never received their initial appointments.
The organization is currently suffering from a shortage of primary care physicians. However, the review indicated that the VA’s problem goes far beyond a simple backlog of appointments. The report examined 731 VA outpatient clinics and hospitals and found that 13 percent of the surveyed schedulers were asked by their supervisors to forge appointment schedules to make patients’ wait times seem shorter.
The audit, which was the first nationwide examination of the VA network, was implemented after recent reports emerged showing that patient deaths — which were subsequently covered up — had occurred at the Phoenix, Arizona, VA center. A follow-up review, conducted before the official audit, showed that falsified appointment records and long patient waits were occurring at a systemic rate in the VA medical network. The network is currently considered to be the country’s largest health care provider, serving almost nine million veterans.
The FBI is currently conducting investigations that could result in criminal charges. The VA has also contacted 50,000 veterans nationwide to move them off of waiting lists, and is in the process of contacting 40,000 more. Many senior VA administrators have been fired; Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned May 30.
Congress is also in the process of passing two bills that would allocate more funds for the VA to hire additional physicians and allow veterans dealing with long appointment wait times to see doctors listed under Medicare or the military’s TRICARE program.
All military veterans have the right to receive their promised medical care. If you have not been able to get an appointment in a timely manner, an experienced VA benefits attorney may be able to help.
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