US audit: 57,000 vets await initial medical visits

by Matthew Daly
This April 28, 2014 file photos shows the Phoenix VA Health Care Center in Phoenix. The Veterans Affairs Department says more than 57,000 patients are still waiting for initial medical appointments at VA hospitals and clinics 90 days or more after requesting them. An additional 64,000 who enrolled in the VA health care system over the past 10 years have never had appointments. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

More than 57,000 U.S. military veterans have been waiting for 90 days or more for medical appointments, the Veterans Affairs Department said in a wide-ranging audit released Monday. An additional 64,000 who enrolled for VA health care over the past decade have never been seen by a doctor, according to the audit.

The audit is the first nationwide look at America's biggest medical network in the uproar that began with reports two months ago of patients dying while awaiting appointments and of cover-ups at a VA center in Arizona. Examining 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics, the audit found long wait times across the U.S. for patients seeking their first appointments with both primary care doctors and specialists.

The controversy over veterans' care could provide Republicans with an issue to criticize Democrats ahead of congressional elections in November. It is also a headache for President Barack Obama, who had to accept the resignation of the Veterans Affairs secretary, Eric Shinseki, on May 30 and is actively seeking someone to replace him after the leading candidate pulled out, citing the prospect of a bitter confirmation hearing.

Shinseki, a former general, took the blame for what he decried as a "lack of integrity" in the sprawling system providing health care to U.S. military veterans.

The audit said a 14-day target for waiting times was "not attainable," given growing demand for VA services and poor planning. It called the 2011 decision by senior VA officials setting it, and then basing bonuses on meeting the target "an organizational leadership failure."

The audit said 13 percent of VA schedulers reported getting instructions from supervisors or others to falsify appointment dates in order to meet on-time performance goals.

Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said the audit showed "systemic problems" that demand immediate action. VA officials have contacted 50,000 veterans across the U.S. to get them off waiting lists and into clinics, Gibson said, and are in the process of contacting an additional 40,000 veterans.

Related Stories

Obama health care nominee withdraws

date Jun 06, 2014

President Barack Obama's choice to be the top health official at the embattled Veterans Affairs Department has withdrawn his nomination.

US reports spike in suicides among youngest vets

date Jan 10, 2014

There has been a sharp increase in the suicide rate among the youngest U.S. male veterans, and a smaller but still significant jump among women who served in the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs said Thursday.

Agreement boosts access for American Indian vets

date Dec 06, 2012

(AP)—Native American military veterans will be able to access health care closer to home thanks to an agreement between the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and the Indian Health Service.

Recommended for you

Increased morbidity, mortality in food system industries

date 4 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Occupational morbidity and mortality are elevated across food system industries compared with nonfood system industries, according to a study published online May 12 in the Journal of Occupational an ...

Three issues to consider before selecting EHR

date 4 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Work flow, features and functionality, and technical infrastructure should all be considered in advance of selecting an electronic heath record (EHR) system, according to an article published ...

Research letter: Indoor tanning rates drop among US adults

date 5 hours ago

Indoor tanning rates dropped among adults from 5.5 percent in 2010 to 4.2 percent in 2013, although an estimated 7.8 million women and 1.9 million men still engage in the practice, which has been linked to increased cancer ...

Stunting remains a challenge in South Africa

date 7 hours ago

Stunting remains stubbornly persistent in South Africa, despite economic growth, political and social transitions, and national nutritional programmes, says a Wits-led research team.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.