Another VA clinic falsified records to conceal wait times

A few weeks ago, discussing the explosive discovery that the Phoneix VA had created a secret waiting list for veterans who couldn’t be timely treated, one of my colleagues on the Ace of Spades HQ podcast noted that if one VA is doing it, many of them are.

Looks like he was right:

Clerks at the Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Fort Collins were instructed last year how to falsify appointment records so it appeared the small staff of doctors was seeing patients within the agency’s goal of 14 days, according to the investigation. […]

Many of the 6,300 veterans treated at the outpatient clinic waited months to be seen. If the clerical staff allowed records to reflect that veterans waited longer than 14 days, they were punished by being placed on a “bad boy list,” the report shows.

“Employees reported that scheduling was ‘fixed,’ ” the findings say.

It’s the same story as in Phoenix. The VA is supposed to see patients within 14 to 30 days, but administrators know they can’t meet that requirement. A false records system “fixes” the problem for administrators, but it leaves veterans out in the cold. It also obscures the VA’s problems with understaffing and underfunding.

In this case, the leaked VA report  doesn’t say if anyone was harmed or killed because of wait times or false records. But note that the report says clerks “were instructed.” That’s an infuriatingly passive statement that demands answers. Who instructed the clerks? When? And are the instructors still working for the VA? Without a doubt, a wider probe is called for.