Published by the the Washington Times this morning is a report that the Obama administration received notice that the Veterans Administration was cooking the books about waiting times during its 2008 transition to the White House, which raises the question of why wasn’t this fixed six years ago when he came into office. It also raises the question why didn’t President Bush do anything about it when he was president.
Veterans Affairs officials warned the Obama-Biden transition team in the weeks after the 2008 presidential election that the department shouldn’t trust the wait times that its facilities were reporting.
“This is not only a data integrity issue in which [Veterans Health Administration] reports unreliable performance data; it affects quality of care by delaying — and potentially denying — deserving veterans timely care,” the officials wrote.
The briefing materials, obtained by The Washington Times through the Freedom of Information Act, make clear that the problems existed well before Mr. Obama took office, dating back at least to the Bush administration. But the materials raise questions about what actions the department took since 2009 to remedy the problems.
Apparently, inaccurate and misleading reports began to appear in 2005, three years before Obama took office.
In particular, the 2008 transition report referred to a VA inspector general recommendation to test the accuracy of reported waiting times.
Such tests, the report noted, could prompt action if results reveal “questionable differences” between the dates shown in medical records and dates in the Veterans Health Administration’s scheduling system. It’s unclear whether that recommendation was adopted because VA officials have not responded to request for comment.
“Audits of outpatient scheduling and patient waiting times completed since 2005 have identified noncompliance with the policies and procedures for scheduling, inaccurate reporting of patient waiting times and errors in [electronic waiting lists],” the briefing papers state.
The briefing/transition reports are prepared by a career federal employees rather than political appointees. The VA report provided to the incoming Obama administration notes that little was done to address the problems surrounding scheduling and wait time accuracy during the George W. Bush administration.
“Although VHA has recognized the need to improve scheduling practices and the accuracy of wait times data, no meaningful action has been taken to achieve this goal today,” officials wrote.
In fact, officials added, nine recommendations arising from inspector general audits from 2005 to 2007 were not implemented by 2008 when officials prepared the report for the incoming administration.
The briefing materials do not reveal any concerns about outright fraud in manipulating waiting times, but they make repeated references in summarizing past audits and reviews about data accuracy.
This article shows that false reporting of wait times is a systemic problem within the VA, and that Bush had three years to address it, Obama six years, and neither president lifted a finger to do a thing about it.
We send our heroes overseas to keep us safe at home. The very least we can in return for their acts of heroism do is give them the medical attention they need. It’s what we promised, and it’s what our last two presidents failed to deliver.
Cross-posted at The Lid