Audit: Tens of Thousands of Veterans Waiting Weeks for Healthcare

According to a new audit of the hospitals and clinics run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 57,000 patients have been waiting more than three months for medical care.

The audit was conducted between May 12 and June 3 and details how thousands of veterans are facing weeks before getting an appointment. Thousands more never had their appointments scheduled at all. From Reuters:

The VA said it found that in mid-May, 57,436 veterans were waiting for appointments that could not be scheduled within 90 days, while about 43,000 had appointments more than 90 days in the future.

Over the past 10 years, 63,869 new enrollees in the VA healthcare system had requested appointments that were never scheduled, VA said.

The audit also addressed reports that VA healthcare administrators are falsifying patient scheduling to make wait times appear shorter. From the Associated Press:

It's not just a backlog issue, the wide-ranging Veterans Affairs review indicated. Thirteen percent of schedulers in the facility-by-facility report on 731 hospitals and outpatient clinics reported being told by supervisors to falsify appointment schedules to make patient waits appear shorter.

According to the report, a guideline for VA hospitals and clinics to schedule appointments within 14 days of patients' desired date has been rescinded and deemed "not attainable:"

The new audit said a 14-day agency target for waiting times was "not attainable," given poor planning and a growing demand for VA services as Vietnam-era vets age and younger veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars enter the system. The 2011 decision by senior VA officials to set the target, and then base bonuses on meeting it, was "an organizational leadership failure," the report said.

3,772 employees nationwide were interviewed for the report, and respondents at 14 VA healthcare locations reported having been punished over scheduling practices.

[Image via AP]