(Adds details from the report, quotes, political context; in
paragraphs 2-4, 6-9, 12-14)
By David Lawder and Emily Stephenson
WASHINGTON, June 9 More than 100,000 veterans
are experiencing waits of more than 90 days for appointments at
medical centers run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,
according to an internal audit released by the troubled agency
The internal survey revealed that a scandal over cover-ups
of long wait times at VA clinics, during which some veterans are
alleged to have died, was broader and deeper than initially
thought, prompting a new round of recriminations from lawmakers
and veterans groups.
The agency said staff at 76 percent of facilities surveyed
reported that they were instructed to misrepresent appointment
data at least once.
The VA said it found that in mid-May, 57,436 veterans were
waiting for appointments that could not be scheduled within 90
days, while about 43,000 had appointments more than 90 days in
Over the past 10 years, 63,869 new enrollees in the VA
healthcare system had requested appointments that were never
scheduled, VA said.
The agency said it is working to contact all of these people
to try to expedite their care. With more than 1,700 clinics,
hospitals and other facilities serving some 8.9 million
veterans, the VA operates the largest U.S. healthcare system.
Lawmakers from both parties expressed outrage at the latest
findings, which deepen the political problems that the
controversy presents to President Barack Obama and his Democrats
as they try to keep control of the U.S. Senate in November
"The results of the VA's report are appalling and
disturbing," said Senator Kay Hagan, a Democrat in a tight
re-election contest in North Carolina, a state where many
military retirees live.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner called the findings "a
national disgrace" and said the House of Representatives would
pass a measure this week to allow veterans to seek private care
at VA expense if forced to wait more than 30 days for an
The VA said it was abandoning a two-week scheduling goal for
appointments after finding it was "not attainable," and
suspended bonus awards for the 2014 fiscal year ending Sept. 30.
The agency also said it will take emergency steps to rush
medical care to veterans, including hiring temporary staff,
keeping clinics open later, sending more patients to private
care providers and bringing in mobile medical units to some
locations. It will freeze hiring at headquarters offices.
A VA official said $300 million would be shifted within the
agency's budget to pay for the medical care blitz.
"This data shows the extent of the systemic problems we
face, problems that demand immediate actions," VA acting
Secretary Sloan Gibson said in a statement.
The report made no mention of whether the long wait times
had resulted in deaths of veterans. Doctors at VA clinics in
Phoenix, where the investigations were first launched, have
alleged that some 40 veterans have died while waiting for care.
(Reporting By David Lawder and Emily Stephenson; Editing by
Doina Chiacu and Mohammad Zargham)