(NaturalNews) A just-released report by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) revealed that the dearth of patient care for our nation's veterans is more widespread -- and shocking -- than initially thought.
The report, which was based on an audit of nearly half of the VA's 1,700 medical centers, clinics and treatment facilities, found that more than 100,000 vets have endured unacceptably long wait times to see physicians and treatment providers, USA Today said.
The VA says it has already contacted 50,000 veterans, trying to get them quicker medical care, but a total of 57,436 veterans around the country have waited at least 90 days to see a doctor but still did not have appointments as of May 15. The department also found evidence that, in the past decade, nearly 64,000 vets who sought care at a VA hospital were just never seen by a physician.
Further, The Washington Post reported, the VA acknowledged that about 13 percent of VA schedulers indicated that they were told to falsify appointment request dates in order to give the impression that wait times were not as long as they actually were.
The audit of 731 VA medical centers was released June 9.
Failure of the first fully government-run healthcare system
The report blamed complicated scheduling practices which ostensibly created confusion among both clerks and supervisors, which only contributed to wait times. It also said the VA's goal of providing vets with an initial appointment within 14 days was just not possible because of the growing demands for care.
"VA is moving aggressively to contact these veterans," said the audit report, which came less than two weeks after the VA Inspector General's office confirmed earlier allegations that VA hospitals had been falsifying appointment records in order to hide treatment delays. Former four-star Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, the VA secretary, resigned over the scandal May 30.
The audit report also said that an additional 8 percent of scheduling staff used "unofficial" lists to track patients who had waited at least three months for appointments. The most extensive treatment delays on those lists were hidden -- kept off of records that were open to inspection.
Workers at 24 VA sites said they felt as though they had been "threatened or coerced" to enter incorrect data, said the audit report.
The Post reported:
The inspector general's report last month said VA data showed an average wait time of 24 days when the actual rate was 115 days on average, illustrating the effect of manipulating the records.
"This behavior runs counter to VA's core values," the report said. "The overarching environment and culture which allowed this state of practice to take root must be confronted head-on."
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In a statement, acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said that the problems unearthed "demand immediate action." He added that vets deserved to have "full faith in their VA."
On June 10, in a rare act of unity, the House voted unanimously to allow vets enduring lengthy treatment delays to get VA-paid treatment instead from the private sector. The Senate was expected to take up a similar measure before the week ended.
The audit report outlined 16 actions that the agency has or will take to address its systemic problems. That includes ending the unrealistic 14-day goal, contacting patients to get them off of waiting lists, and holding employees and officials more accountable for manipulating records. Also, new hires have been halted at the VA Health Administration headquarters in Washington, D.C., and data regarding wait times will be published bi-monthly.
The Post reported that a senior VA official said the agency will begin distributing about $300 million over the next 60 to 90 days to accelerate care. That will include increased hours and contracting with non-VA clinics.
"This audit is absolutely infuriating, and underscores the depth of this scandal," Paul Rieckhoff, chief executive of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said in a statement. He added that President Obama needs to be "out-front in reforming the VA."
As an aside, if you wonder what a complete government-run healthcare system looks like -- think Obamacare -- this is it: The VA is a 100 percent federal-government-run entity, and like all other government bureaucracies, it is rife with waste, fraud and abuse, coupled with unreasonable demands placed on too few resources.
But the thing is, too many Americans are once again calling on the "government" to fix another problem that the government created, and that's the epitome of insanity.
The only way our veterans will ever get timely, regular care is for the government to get out of the healthcare delivery business and let the private sector take care of them. It's telling that just such a measure is part of the VA's new "fixes."