No. of Recommendations: 7

Internal Veterans Affairs Department documents show that at least two veterans died last year waiting to see a doctor while others couldn’t get primary care appointments for up to eight months, members of a House oversight and investigations panel said Thursday.

Addressing the ongoing problem of vets who suffer through long waits for appointments at VA hospitals and clinics, House lawmakers joined federal investigators and veterans service organizations in castigating VA on an issue that has endured for more than a decade.

“Evidence shows that many VA facilities, when faced with a backlog of thousands of outstanding or unresolved consultations, decided to administratively close out these requests. Some reasons given included that the request was years old, too much time had elapsed, or the veteran had died,” said Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., chairman of the House Veterans Oversight and Investigations panel.

“This is unacceptable,” said Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., the panel’s ranking Democrat. “Veterans deserve timely, accessible health care.”

According to VA, about 49 percent of new patients and 90 percent of established patients are able to see a primary care doctor or specialist within VA’s goal of 14 days, a metric established in 2011.

But the first-time patients who weren’t seen within 14 days waited an average 50 days to schedule initial appointments.

Bad data, fudged numbers

VA actually has no idea how long most patients wait, said Debra Draper, health care director at the government’s watchdog agency, the Government Accountability Office, which looked into the matter in December.

“The bottom line is it is unclear how long veterans are waiting to receive care in VA’s medical facilities because the reported data are unreliable,” Draper told the panel.

She said GAO analysts found that more than half of VA’s 50,000 schedulers did not know how to accurately report the information needed to determine wait times, which includes logging the date a veteran wants to be seen as well as the actual date of the appointment.

Others admitted to changing the desired date so the time aligned with VA’s established goal of 14 days.
Sounds like the NHS.
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