Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson today told members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee that the Department of Veterans Affairs has taken action on the four recommendations made in the Interim Report of the Office of Inspector General for the Phoenix VA Health Care System. The final report of the IG has not been published.

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Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson

“We have taken actions on all of the recommendations in the Inspector General’s interim report on Phoenix which was released in May,” Gibson said. “The Inspector General confirmed we have systemic issues when it comes to patient scheduling and access, and we are working to address this serious issue.  We have identified Veterans on wait lists at Phoenix, including those identified by the IG in their interim report, and have reached out to immediately begin scheduling appointments.  We have reviewed wait lists nationwide, including the New Enrollee Appointment Request (NEAR) list, and not only are we reaching out to contact those Veterans to get them into clinics, but we have posted the information online so Veterans can review our progress.

Acting Secretary Gibson visited the VA health care system in Phoenix on June 5 as the first of his 13 medical center visits in the past seven weeks.

Below is the text of Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) four interim recommendations, along with the actions VA has taken to implement each:

First, OIG “recommend the VA Secretary take immediate action to review and provide appropriate health care to the 1,700 veterans we identified as not being on any existing wait list.”  In response:

  • VA announced on June 4 that the Department had reached out to all Phoenix, Arizona-based Veterans identified by the IG as not being on any wait list to immediately begin scheduling appointments for all Veterans requesting care.
  • Of those Veterans identified by the IG, 1,035 Veterans requested and were scheduled for medical appointments.
  • As of July 18, 2014, 844 of the 1,035 Veterans have completed those appointments or have an active future appointment; with the initial appointment being offered within 30 days.  Any appointment scheduled more than 30 days in the future is the result of the provider’s clinical judgment or the Veterans preference to get an appointment at a later date.
  • As of July 18, 2014, 191 of the 1,035 Veterans did not show up for or canceled their appointment prior to the scheduled time. The Phoenix VA Health Care System will reach out to these Veterans again to ensure their health care needs have been addressed.
  • Of the remaining 665 Veterans, all have been contacted, and either indicated they didn’t want an appointment or did not respond to multiple phone calls and a certified letter offering an opportunity to schedule an appointment.

Second, OIG “recommend the VA Secretary review all existing wait lists at the Phoenix Health Care System to identify veterans who may be at greatest risk because of a delay in the delivery of health care (for example, those veterans who would be new patients to a specialty clinic) and provide the appropriate medical care.”  In response:

  • Acting Secretary Gibson initiated a review of all wait lists at the Phoenix VA Health Care System.
  • As part of the review, VA reached out to more than 5,000 Veterans in Phoenix to coordinate the acceleration of their care.  The 1,700 Veterans identified by the OIG are a subset of those 5,000 Veterans.
  • Those Veterans included all individuals on the Phoenix VA Health Care System’s New Enrollees Appointment Request List (NEAR), Electronic Wait List (EWL) and patients who were waiting greater than 90 days to receive a scheduled appointment.
  • Once contact had been made, Phoenix staff scheduled Veterans for appointments based on the Veterans’ preference for the timing of their appointments as well as appropriate clinical need.
  • Clinical staff attempted to accommodate all needed appointments at the Phoenix VA Health Care System.  Where capacity did not exist to provide timely appointments, staff referred patients to non-VA community care in order to provide all Veterans timely access to care.
  • Since May 15, VA has scheduled 2,300 appointments at the Phoenix VA Health Care System and made 2,713 referrals for appointments to community providers through non-VA care.

Third, OIG “recommend the VA Secretary initiate a nationwide review of veterans on wait lists to ensure that veterans are seen in an appropriate time, given their clinical condition.”  In addition, on May 21, 2014, former Secretary Shinseki directed the Veterans Health Administration leadership to personally review their processes to ensure VA is doing everything possible to schedule Veteran patients for timely appointments.  In response:

  • VA health care facilities nationwide continuously monitor clinic capacity in an effort to maximize VA’s ability to provide Veterans timely appointments given their clinical conditions.
  • Where VA cannot increase capacity, VA is increasing the use of care in the community through non-VA medical care.
  • Approximately 200,000 new VA appointments nationwide were scheduled for Veterans between May 15 and June 15, 2014.
  • Additionally, nearly 40,000 individual Veterans have received referrals for their care to private providers in the community in order for Veterans to receive needed care as quickly as possible.
  • Each of VA’s facilities continuously reaches out to Veterans waiting greater than 90 days for care to coordinate the acceleration of their care.
  • Facility clinical staff continuously evaluate Veterans currently waiting for care to determine if the timing of their appointment is medically appropriate given their individual clinical conditions.

Fourth, OIG “recommend the VA Secretary direct the Health Eligibility Center to run a nationwide New Enrollee Appointment Request report by facility of all newly enrolled veterans and direct facility leadership to ensure all veterans have received appropriate care or are shown on the facility’s electronic waiting list.”  In response:

  • The Health Eligibility Center, in connection with the Veterans Health Administration Support Services Center, developed a report to identify those individuals currently waiting on the New Enrollee Appointment Request (NEAR) List.
  • As of May 15, 2014, approximately 64,000 Veterans were currently pending on the NEAR list.
  • As of July 15, 2014, approximately 2,100 individuals remained on the NEAR list.
  • A preliminary analysis of the 61,900 Veterans removed from the NEAR list show:
    • 20% cancelled their request for an appointment
    • 11% scheduled an appointment
    • 2% were placed on the Electronic Wait List
    • 7% requested and were referred to other VA services
    • 7% were in  the early stages of eligibility and verification
    • 52% are still in process
  • Of the 52% in process, VA has made several attempts to contact those Veterans by phone.  After verifying mailing addresses, VA sent certified letters to every Veteran who could not be reached by phone.

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Published on Jul. 24, 2014

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9 Comments

  1. Cranz Nichols July 25, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    I have received good care at the Walla Walla (Wash) VA. However, this investigation reveals that the managers at Phoenix should be fired immediately. Bureacracy is truly at the foundation of the problems at VA.

  2. Gregory Rehorn July 25, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    I would like to know why as a Disabled Veteran I have to summitt to Drug tests just to get refills for my Pain meds. If someone on welfare or someone getting Food stamps doesn’t have to go through this. Ihave to go through hell to get my Pain Medications and can’t even get refills posted on My ehealthvet site. WHY????? I have lost faith in the Dr at my Clinic and I have requested a change in Clinic’s.

  3. veteran marine July 25, 2014 at 10:18 am

    I am a vet in the San Antonio healthcare system, and I have excellent care with the eye and audiology clinics. The problem I have is getting an appointment for a service connected condition, it takes 3 to 6 months, that is if there are no cancellations during that period. I even have trouble getting seen from my primary care doctor.

  4. c Walsh July 25, 2014 at 12:30 am

    Thanks for killing my dad with your secret list. He passed on July 4th. Which ironically made me miss the only appt VA has given me since January when VAMC Phx denied me care and falsified my medical records. I had major surgery by civilians in April to fix your mess. I have called and called but STILL have nothing, even thru a homeless veteran program. Your “toll free” people took my info, IG took my complaint, yet two months later I have heard nothing. For the record, I am service connected with PTSD and am long, long, long ago out of most of my meds. Keep telling your lies and someday even yourselves will believe them. Lucky for me you’ve left me homeless before so I can do my best now, with my young children added to the mix. Let’s see how long before you remove this and continue to ignore me. After all, no one really cares about us as evidenced by what my family has endured so you get bonuses and “long term vacations.”

  5. John Kiger, MSgt USAF Ret. July 24, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    Would like to know how family members can inquire if a recently deceased veteran was on the Phoenix wait list or even in the system.

    • Yvonne Levardi July 25, 2014 at 8:20 am

      John,
      I’m sorry to hear about your loss. Right now, as the IG investigation is still ongoing, that information may not be available yet. That being said, get in touch with one of the patient advocates at the Phoenix VAMC http://www.phoenix.va.gov/patients/patient_concerns.asp and they might be a good place to start. If you have legal rights to information about the deceased family member you should be able to access that information; but the patient advocate would be a good start. If you need any further assistance, feel free to email us at newmedia at va.gov
      Best,
      Yvonne Levardi

  6. Gene Newton July 24, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    I am a retired Army CW4 w/ 24 years service w/2 tours in Vietnam. I retired in 1985 an tried to get an appointment with the VA due to hearing loss. Call Back. Call Back. I got tired of being told to call back so I quit.
    Over the years I have had Tinnitus and hearing loss and have had to purchase several hearing aids. So I never called VA again. Hearing aids are very expensive.
    In January 2014 a friend of a friend told me he had received a hearing aid from the VA about 2 years ago. I actually got through to the VA and asked about an appointment. I was told that I could get an appointment in about 3 weeks. Long story short. I have had about 6 appointment with VA for glasses and I received my hearing aids on 18 July 2014. Mission accomplished. This was a the Charles Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta Ga . I have received excellent care from the Eye clinic and also the Audiology. There is still hope out there.

  7. Harold Owen July 24, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Thank you Veterans admin . In Denver co. For moving my appts . To sooner . Appreciate the drs and all your doing . God bless America our vets and you .ee

  8. Linda Sutherland July 24, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    I have a brother that lives in Montana. I do hope this is one of those VA systems being carefully looked at. I have to say first that he is a Vet, but does not have a disability rating. He uses Fort Benjamin Harrison as his primary care giver for his health. It takes a very long time for him to get appointments, results of tests, and seeing a regular doctor. He lives about 90 miles from Helena and must take time off from his work to get to appointments that are usually cancelled without notification and discovers the cancellation once he has made the trip to the facility. They have tried to get this worked out through the Vet advocates office, but no one ever responds to their phone calls. Does it Matter how these vets are seen if they do not have a disability rating?????

    I live in California, where we have a good system in the northern part of the state, so I can’t help him. Please put a little effort into looking at the Montana system.

    Thanks,
    Linda Sutherland

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