The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said on Monday that roughly 100,000 veterans have experienced long waits for healthcare appointments at VA facilities and more than three-quarters of locations had misreported waiting times.
In an internal audit, the agency said 57,436 new veteran patients had been waiting 90 days or more for an appointment. The agency said it was abandoning a two-week scheduling goal after finding that it was “not attainable.”
“This data shows the extent of the systemic problems we face, problems that demand immediate actions,” Sloan Gibson, acting Department of Veterans Affairs secretary, said Monday in a statement. “As of today, VA has contacted 50,000 veterans across the country to get them off of wait lists and into clinics.”
The audit examined 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics and found long wait times across the country for patients seeking their first appointments with both primary care doctors and specialists.
A 14-day target for waiting times was “not attainable,” the auditors reported, because of growing demand for VA services and poor planning. The 2011 decision by senior VA officials setting that target, and then basing bonuses on meeting the target, was “an organizational leadership failure.”
The audit found that in some instances schedulers were instructed to enter different desired dates than the one requested by the veteran, thus masking waiting times.