Email shows WY VA employee urging others to falsify scheduling records
More problems with the VA falsifying scheduling records to show that patients were being seen in the 14 day window when the actual wait was many days longer.
Fox News obtained an email showing that an employee at the Cheyenne VA Medical Center was showing others how to "game the system" and falsify the records. Earlier, the same problem surfaced at a Colorado VA center.
Fox News has learned that the VA was informed of dubious scheduling practices at the Cheyenne VA Medical Center and at a community-based outpatient clinic in Fort Collins, Colorado, which is part of the Wyoming center, through an internal investigation in December 2013. The problems at and the investigation into the Fort Collins clinic were reported earlier this week.
However, the VA took no formal disciplinary action and did not order an independent probe into the matter until Friday, when Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said he learned of the email.
Now Rep. Jeff Miller, the chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, is questioning why if the VA learned there were problems in December, the agency is only taking action now. He said Shinseki’s actions are “faux outrage at its finest.”
The June email signed by an employee named David Newman, a Telehealth coordinator at the Cheyenne center, describes to the workers methods they can use to manipulate records in the patient appointment system to comply with a VA policy that requires patients be seen within 14 days of their desired date of appointment.
"Yes, it is gaming the system a bit," the email reads. "But you have to know the rules of the game you are playing, and when we exceed the 14-day measure, the front office gets very upset."
Shinseki said in a statement that after he learned of the email on Friday, he ordered the employee who wrote it placed on administrative leave. He said he also ordered the VA’s independent inspector general to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter.
“VA takes any allegations about patient care or employee misconduct very seriously. If true, the behavior outlined in the email is unacceptable,” Shinseki said.
Miller said that the VA has known about falsified records at the Fort Collins clinic, which he notes is part of the Wyoming center, since last year.
“And yet, until today, department officials had not taken any steps whatsoever to discipline any employees or request an independent investigation – nor did they plan to do so,” he said. “Today’s announcement from Sec. Shinseki that he has placed a Cheyenne VAMC employee on paid leave and asked the inspector general to investigate appears to be more of a knee-jerk reaction to tough media questions than anything else.”
The falsification of records is bad enough. But the fact that the VA knew about this for a year and did nothing is the real scandal. That reflects badly on management, and shows a decided lack of administrative control exercised by VA officials. Of course, it's also a great disservice to those who served.
There have been calls for Shineski's head. Given the track record of this administration, that's hardly likely. If Kathleen Sebelius could keep her job after the massive clusterfark of the Obamacare rollout, Shineski doesn't appear to be in much trouble.