The wait times for patients at Veterans Affairs' medical facilities in seven states may have not been nearly as short as the clinics' bosses claimed them to be.
According to USA Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general said clinics in Arkansas, California, Delaware, Illinois, New York, Texas, and Vermont were only achieving their short wait time goals because they falsified their records. The report says that supervisors at multiple facilities repeatedly told their schedulers to zero out the actual wait times of many veterans seeking care in order to mask the reality of a system flooded with recent veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the case of a clinic in Harlingen, Texas, schedulers reported getting in trouble with their supervisors for entering in the actual wait times because they were "too long." In other cases at Gainesville, Fla., Philadelphia, and White River Junction Vt. facilities, patients were scheduled outside of the official scheduling system in order to hide the lengths of their waits.
To deal with the widespread problem, the VA is disciplining and retraining numerous staffers, expanding their hours of operation, and adding new providers, but whistleblowers like Shea Wilkes say the massive effort is not enough and falsification is still going on.
“Until the VA decides it truly wants to change its corrupt and poor culture, those who work on the front lines and possess the true knowledge relating to the VA's continued data manipulation will remain quiet and in hiding because of fear of workplace harassment and retaliation,” Wilkes said.