Officials at Veterans Affairs' medical facilities in seven states falsified wait-time records, according to a USA Today analysis of 70 government investigation reports.
Nearly two years since the discovery of falsified wait-time records at a Phoenix VA facility, the newspaper analysis found evidence of similar misconduct in VA facilities in dozens of states.
USA Today obtained the reports via a Freedom of Information Act request. It found that the "zeroing out" of wait times was standard procedure at 40 VA facilities in 19 states and Puerto Rico, in some cases going back decades. Several facility leaders said they cracked down on the practice in the wake of the VA scandal, but investigators found evidence of no such slowdown at others.
In seven states--Delaware, Illinois, California, Vermont, New York, Arkansas and Texas--schedulers, at the behest of their supervisors, manipulated wait times to create the impression of improved performance, according to USA Today. In other cases, while the mandate to manipulate wait times didn't come from on high, the VA environment encouraged or provided incentives for such misconduct.
VA officials told USA Today that since the investigations, most of which concluded more than a year ago, the department has initiated disciplinary proceedings against 29 people, although critics of the department have noted the lengthy periods required to dismiss VA employees once and for all. "We've expanded appointments, we have added evening hours and weekend hours, we've added 3 million square feet of space, we've hired 14,000 new providers," VA Undersecretary for Health David Shulkin, M.D., told the publication.