Not A Single VA Employee Fired In San Diego, Los Angeles Wait Time Manipulations

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Not a single employee was fired at either the San Diego or Los Angeles VA medical centers following investigative reports on rampant wait time manipulation as of March 24, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.

While no employees were fired, there were still two cases of disciplinary actions. At the San Diego VA, management suspended an employee and provided a temporary written warning to another over the issue of wait time manipulation.

No employees at the Los Angeles VA were disciplined.

The VA failed to replace any of its staff even with ample evidence that supervisors were coaching employees through investigator interviews. One supervisor, a medical administrative officer, received a suspension.

Employees at both medical centers were trained to “zero out” appointment times, which essentially means that staff took desired appointment dates and made them equivalent to open appointment dates, meaning that no wait time would accrue.

If employees didn’t comply, supervisors would downgrade their performance in evaluations as a form of retaliation. The practice, based on repeated interviews, was widespread in both the San Diego medical center and the facility in Los Angeles.

One supervisor refused to force her staff to change appointment dates, and she was moved out of her position as a result. Her area of supervision showed much higher wait times.

This same supervisor made an effort to draw attention to the absurdly high number of appointments that had wait times of zero. To her, the clerical trickery was an indication that something was going horribly wrong.

The database showed that 78 percent of appointments for veterans had a zero-day wait time, even though a presumably substantial number of those appointees had been waiting days, weeks or even months for their first appointment.

“That’s a glaring red flag that the clerks are not entering the true desired date, but instead, they are finding the next available appointment and making the desired date the same as the appointment date instead of asking the patient when they want to be seen,” an inspector general report noted.

The situation was so bad, in fact, that one veteran tried to commit suicide after officials cancelled four consecutive appointments.

Lack of any serious response from the VA is quite typical. In Arkansas, where investigators found perhaps one of the worst cases of blatant wait time manipulation, no supervisors saw any discipline, and only two low-level employees received written warnings, which is the second lowest punishment possible at the department.

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