WASHINGTON (AP) — Some steps the Department of Veterans Affairs has taken to address a scandal over long patient waits for care and phony records hiding delays at VA hospitals and clinics nationwide:
May 30: VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigns, he and agency officials announce that:
—Top level agency officials will not receive performance bonuses this year;
—Employees’ performance in meeting a 14-day wait-time target for patients’ appointments will no longer be considered in employee job reviews. The agency found its strapped clinics were not always able to meet that goal and it was pressuring some workers to falsify wait-time information;
—Steps will be taken against officials involved in falsifying wait-time data and senior officials at facilities where audits identify problems;
—Senior officials will be removed from the VA’s Phoenix facility, a focus of the department’s problems.
June 4: Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson says agency is contacting 1,700 veterans the department’s inspector general found were omitted from the Phoenix center’s official waiting list and is starting to schedule appointments for them.
June 5: Gibson says retaliation won’t be tolerated against agency workers who have complained about covering up of scheduling delays. Gibson makes that vow after independent federal Office of Special Counsel says it is investigating possible retribution against 37 VA employees.
June 9: The VA announces additional steps including:
__Starting to contact more than 90,000 veterans waiting for care — including 50,000 already reached — to accelerate appointments. Those without appointments or waiting more than a month are being given a choice of a VA appointment as soon as possible or seeing a local non-VA health care provider.
—Planning further investigation of 112 of the 731 VA facilities visited by agency auditors, because initial interviews with workers suggested that data on appointments may have been falsified or that employees may have been told to do so.
—Immediate hiring freeze at the VA’s Veterans Health Administration office in Washington, D.C., and 21 regional Health Administration offices around the U.S.;
—Hiring extra clinical and patient-support staffers for the most overburdened VA facilities;
—Using temporary staffing measures, including mobile medical units, to accelerate care for veterans on wait lists;
—Collecting data from patients and those making initial appointments to assess their satisfaction with care;
—Starting an external audit of VA’s system for scheduling appointment.