Foote accused Arizona VA leaders of collecting bonuses for reducing patient wait times. But, he said, the purported successes resulted from data manipulation rather than improved service for veterans. He said up to 40 patients died while awaiting care.
In May, the inspector general’s office found that 1,700 veterans were waiting for primary care appointments at the Phoenix VA but did not show up on the wait list. “Until that happens, the reported wait times for these veterans has not started,” said a report issued in May.
Gibson said the VA reached out to all 1,700 veterans in Phoenix and scheduled care for them. However, he acknowledged there are still 1,800 veterans in Phoenix who requested appointments but will have to wait at least 90 days for care.
The VA has said it is firing three executives of the Phoenix VA hospital. The agency has also said it planned to fire two supervisors and discipline four other employees in Colorado and Wyoming accused of falsifying health care data.
Gibson says he expects the list of disciplined employees to grow. Gibson took over as acting VA secretary when Shinseki resigned. He returned to his job as deputy secretary after McDonald was confirmed.
“The fundamental point here is, we are taking bold and decisive action to fix these problems because it’s unacceptable,” Gibson said. “We owe veterans, we owe the American people, an apology. We’ve delivered that apology. We’ll keep delivering that apology for our failure to meet their expectations for timely and effective health care.”
To help reduce backlogs, the VA is sending more veterans to private doctors for care.
Congress approved $10 billion in emergency spending over three years to pay private doctors and other health professionals to care for veterans who can’t get timely appointments at VA hospitals, or who live more than 40 miles from one.
The new law includes $5 billion for hiring more VA doctors, nurses and other medical staff and $1.3 billion to open 27 new VA clinics across the country.
The legislation also makes it easier to fire hospital administrators and senior VA executives for negligence or poor performance.