New audit finds familiar VA troubles

Echoing the findings of a report by the Inspector General of the VA, a new audit given to President Obama found schedulers were pressured to make it look like veterans were not waiting as long for medical appointments, citing a "systemic lack of integrity."

The report, posted this morning on the VA website, said VA employees "felt compelled to manipulate VA scheduling processes."

"This behavior runs counter to our Core Values," the report concluded, saying, "the overarching environment and culture which allowed this state of practice to take root must be confronted head-on if VA is to evolve to be more capable of adjusting systems, leadership, and resources to meet the needs of Veterans and families."

"I can't explain the lack of integrity among some of the leaders of our health care facilities," said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, just two hours before he offered his resignation to the President.

"This is something I rarely encountered during 38 years in uniform," Shinseki added.

But this latest report confirms that schedulers at the VA have used a series of administrative tricks for years to hide treatment delays, something Shinseki thought was confined just to VA facilities in Phoenix.

"I think he is deeply disappointed in the fact that bad news did not get to him," President Obama told reporters, as he announced Shinseki's departure.

Among the findings of this latest audit:

+ 13% of scheduling staff interviewed indicated they had been instructed to enter different dates in the VA computer system to make any treatment delays look smaller to top executives

+ 64% of major VA facilities were found to have schedulers who indicated they had been pressured to change such dates

+ 62% of major VA facilities had schedulers who used alternative external waiting lists, which would also reduce apparent treatment delays

The report also said that the effort to tie bonuses to wait times, that had a negative effect on appointments.

"However, when tied to rewards, measurement of system performance runs the risk of engendering a culture where the appearance of success becomes the driving force," the report stated.