Veterans Affairs officials warned the
Obama-Biden transition team in the weeks after the 2008 presidential election
that the department shouldn’t trust the wait times that its facilities were
“This is not only a data integrity issue in
which [Veterans Health Administration] reports unreliable performance data; it
affects quality of care by delaying — and potentially denying — deserving
veterans timely care,” the officials wrote.
The briefing materials, obtained by The
Washington Times through the Freedom of Information Act, make clear that the
problems existed well before Mr. Obama took office, dating back at least to the
Bush administration. But the materials raise questions about what actions the
department took since 2009 to remedy the problems.
In particular, the 2008 transition report
referred to a VA inspector general recommendation to test the accuracy of
reported waiting times.Such tests, the report noted, could prompt
action if results reveal “questionable differences” between the dates shown in
medical records and dates in the Veterans Health Administration’s scheduling
system. It’s unclear whether that recommendation was adopted because VA
officials have not responded to request for comment.
of outpatient scheduling and patient waiting times completed since 2005 have
identified noncompliance with the policies and procedures for scheduling,
inaccurate reporting of patient waiting times and errors in [electronic waiting
lists],” the briefing papers state.
little was done to address the problems surrounding scheduling and wait time
accuracy during the George W. Bush administration.
“Although VHA has recognized the need to improve
scheduling practices and the accuracy of wait times data, no meaningful action
has been taken to achieve this goal today,” officials wrote.In fact, officials added, nine recommendations
arising from inspector general audits from 2005 to 2007 were not implemented by
2008 when officials prepared the report for the incoming administration.
(…)The briefing materials do not reveal any
concerns about outright fraud in manipulating waiting times, but they make
repeated references in summarizing past audits and reviews about data accuracy.