New wait-list fraud alleged in Illinois VA

That would put the list to seven facilities now where whistleblowers and/or media probes have discovered allegations and evidence of wait-list fraud at VA facilities. This CBS News investigation into the Hines, Illinois facility adds a new twist — performance bonuses. Germaine Clarno alleges that this facility had multiple, fraudulent wait lists intended to make the facility’s performance look better, and also intended to qualify its leaders for extra cash from the VA:

Germaine Clarno is a VA social worker and employee representative in Chicago. She alleges there are multiple secret waiting lists of veterans kept at the Hines VA Medical Center.

Asked which divisions of the hospital kept the secret waiting lists, Clarno says, “Employees are coming to me from all over the hospital, from outpatient, inpatient, surgery, radiology.”

Clarno says veterans were put on secret waiting lists when they called for appointments, but they wouldn’t formally get an appointment booked in the computer until one came up within the VA’s goal of 14 days. The purpose of the lists, she says, was to hide how often veterans were not being seen on time.

Clarno says the purpose of the lists was “to make numbers look better for their own recognition and for bonuses.”

The VA grants bonuses to executives and doctors, partly based on short wait times. Whistleblowers — including Dr. Sam Foote, who revealed the scandal in Phoenix, where up to 40 veterans may have died — believe bonuses give an incentive to conceal delays in care.

Just how long has the VA known about the problem of wait-list fraud? Well over a year, NBC reported yesterday:

The VA is auditing all of its medical facilities after whistleblowers claimed employees were manipulating patient schedules to hide long wait times which may have contributed to patient deaths.

“I think every American should be outraged about how our veterans are being treated American Legion National Commander, Daniel Dellinger.

An internal memo from March 2013 obtained by NBC shows top VA officials learned of the problem well before the current allegations, and had been quietly trying to fix it. …

“The question to the Secretary is, did he know? And if not – if he did not know what was in a GAO report or Inspector General’s report, why not?” asked Senator Jerry Moran, (R) Kansas.

They have known about the problem for 15 months — and only now are getting around to doing audits? Sounds like a typical VA wait time, eh?

Shinseki is scheduled to appear tomorrow at a Congressional hearing that looks more and more like a distinctly unpleasant experience for all involved. Whether or not he knew, Shinseki’s team apparently did, and Shinseki is responsible for their work. Shinseki needs to go, as part of a larger housecleaning at the Department of Veterans Affairs.