Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Belatedly: Morgan Griffith on V.A. Hospitals

This web site apologizes for not posting this during the week of April 11, when it went out. From U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA-9):

Veterans Hospitals' Wait Time

According to a story published last week by USA TODAY, “Supervisors instructed employees to falsify patient wait times at Veterans Affairs’ medical facilities in at least seven states…”

The story continues, “Employees at 40 VA medical facilities in 19 states and Puerto Rico regularly ‘zeroed out’ veteran wait times, the analysis shows. In some cases, investigators found manipulation had been going on for as long as a decade. In others, it had been just a few years.”

In hindsight, it appears that House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL), whose committee oversees the VA, must have known that something like this was happening at some VA facilities. When he visited the Salem VA last month with Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and myself, Chairman Miller extensively and aggressively questioned the facility’s upper management on how they calculate wait times for veterans seeking appointments.

The good news is that the Salem facility’s upper management was shocked when Chairman Miller indicated that some facilities didn’t start the clock on the wait time until the actual date of the appointment. As an example of what appears to happen at other VA facilities, if a veteran calls for an appointment today and is given a slot three weeks out, the VA would count it as a “zero” wait time if the VA kept that appointment.

Again, let me emphasize – the folks in Salem were shocked by this. It was clear when they explained their process that this was not the case there. Chairman Miller praised them, saying he was glad to hear they were doing it right.

While most Ninth District veterans receive care at either the Salem facility or the Mountain Home VA Medical Center in Tennessee, some go to the Beckley, West Virginia facility or the Durham, North Carolina facility.

USA TODAY does not report misconduct at the Salem, Mountain Home, or Beckley facilities. However, regarding the Durham facility, the report indicates “Investigators found supervisors routinely directed schedulers to hide actual veteran wait times by changing them in the system in a way that falsely showed they met VA performance targets,” a practice they concluded was “greatly diminished” after 2010 with training on proper scheduling practices.

That the VA’s broad dysfunction has continued at any facility is unacceptable.

With my support, the House of Representatives in July of 2015 passed the VA Accountability Act (H.R. 1994) to give Secretary of the VA the authority to swiftly fire or demote for misconduct or poor performance any corrupt or incompetent employee.

Regrettably, the Senate has not acted on this important legislation.

The Senate must do its part to fix the VA’s broken bureaucracy and instill accountability. VA leaders and/or employees must be held responsible for any wrongdoing. And our veterans must receive the quality, timely care that they have earned and deserve.