Wait Times at the VA Medical Center in Little Rock
The Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General (OIG), released an “administrative summary” of its investigation into the wait times at the VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Little Rock, Arkansas. The investigation was prompted by the scandal at the VA Medical Center in Phoenix in 2014 when allegations of lengthy wait times for appointments and the possibility that veterans died while awaiting care surfaced thanks to a whistleblower. Thus far, the OIG has conducted 58 investigations of numerous VA medical centers to determine whether allegations of lengthy wait times for care are valid but has yet to release a single report.
The summary of the OIG’s investigation of the VA Medical Center in Little Rock provides information from the interviews of the employees who work at the medical center. The summaries of the interviews provide a glimpse into the unscrupulous practices conducted to hide wait times for appointments. There are no details on the number of patients affected and length of wait times.
The OIG interviewed 13 VAMC employees to obtain information related to the allegations. The lower level bureaucrats provided valuable insight into the unethical steps taken to cover up wait times for appointments.
The OIG interviewed a few medical support assistants (MSA) who substantiated the allegations. According to the OIG, one of the MSAs stated that he was taught by a fellow MSA to “manipulate the desired date,” and that all MSAs were trained to “zero out” the wait time because that is the procedure for handling appointment schedules. This MSA claims he was reprimanded by his supervisor when he entered the correct appointment dates for 28 patients. He stated that his supervisor instructed him to reset the appointment dates because they were scheduled incorrectly.
Another MSA interviewed by OIG staff asserted that “a fellow MSA taught him to manipulate the desired date, and that he was told that this was how appointments were scheduled at VAMC Little Rock.” The MSA stated that his supervisor “instructed him to change the desired date to the next available appointment date in order to reflect zero days for wait times.” OIG staff interviewed the MSA’s supervisor, and she admitted that she instructed the MSAs she supervises to zero out wait times because years ago her manager told her that it is the correct method for handling appointments.
Any rational human being would assume that the scandal surrounding the VAMC in Phoenix would have motivated bureaucrats at other medical centers to suspend any immoral practices they engage in to cover up wait times, but it did not motivate the bureaucrats at the VAMC in Little Rock to change their practices.
The following information is from an interview with another MSA:
MSA3 named a different fellow employee as the individual who taught her how to zero out wait times, and who told her that this was the proper method for scheduling appointments at VAMC Little Rock. She identified a Supervisory Health Systems Specialist assigned to the chief of staff’s office as the person she was instructed to call if she had a problem regarding scheduling, and that this person had instructed her to continue scheduling appointments the way she always had (meaning, zeroing out wait times,) even after media reports of the allegations at VAMC Phoenix began to surface. MSA3 received instructions to zero out wait times as recently as the morning when she was interviewed by VA OIG staff.
This excerpt from the OIG’s investigation is a microcosm of the unethical practices that arrogant bureaucrats implement to maintain their fed gov territory at the detriment of the veterans they are supposed to serve.
The OIG has yet to release a single report from any investigation it has conducted related to wait times for appointments at numerous VA medical centers. It is possible that the OIG will not release any reports in order to protect Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Clinton has consistently downplayed the problems that plague the VA, so she wants the Obama administration to make sure the reports are not released before November. Sanders sits on the Senate’s Committee on Veterans Affairs, so he doesn’t want the OIG reports to be released, ever.