Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki reacted Wednesday to his agency’s Office of Inspector General report on systemic problems with veterans’ access to medical care, calling its findings “reprehensible.”
“I respect the independent review and recommendations of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) regarding systemic issues with patient scheduling and access,” Shinseki said in a statement. “I have reviewed the interim report, and the findings are reprehensible to me, to this Department, and to Veterans. I am directing that the Phoenix VA Health Care System (VAHCS) immediately triage each of the 1,700 Veterans identified by the OIG to bring them timely care.”
The OIG report found that 1,700 veterans were left off the official patient waiting list at a Phoenix VA facility and that the average wait time for a veteran’s first medical appointment at the facility was 115 days — 91 days longer than the hospital reported. It also determined that 84 percent of patients waited more than 14 days for an appointment, which was the maximum window for an appointment recommended in the VA’s own guidelines.
“We will aggressively and fully implement the remaining OIG recommendations to ensure that we contact every single Veteran identified by the OIG,” Shinseki said in the statement. “I have directed the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to complete a nation-wide access review to ensure a full understanding of VA’s policy and continued integrity in managing patient access to care. Further, we are accelerating access to care throughout our system and in communities where Veterans reside.”
Several Democratic and Republican lawmakers have called for Shinseki’s resignation as allegations of mistreatment at VA facilities came to light in recent weeks. President Barack Obama called the OIG interim report’s findings “deeply troubling.”
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.