(Adds comment by Gibson, more details from White House report)
By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON, June 27 A scathing review of the
scandal-plagued U.S. Veterans Administration found significant
and chronic failures across the board at the agency and that a
corrosive culture prevails, the White House said on Friday.
The findings emerged after President Barack Obama met with
acting Veterans Secretary Sloan Gibson and the White House
official assigned to investigate the agency, Rob Nabors.
Widespread evidence of delays in military veterans getting
healthcare at the VA's facilities prompted Obama to accept the
resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki late in May. He has
yet to nominate a new secretary.
The White House review, which was conducted by Nabors, said
the agency's 14-day scheduling standard for new patients to
receive care is arbitrary, ill-defined and misunderstood.
Nabors found that while the VA generally provides high
quality healthcare once patients get in the door, "it is clear
that there are significant and chronic systemic failures that
must be addressed by the leadership at VA."
Since the 14-day standard was included as a measure in
employee performance contracts, it may have led to
"inappropriate actions" by officials to meet the goal, the
review found. The 14-day scheduling goal has now been removed
from performance contracts.
"We can and must solve these problems as we work to earn back
the trust of veterans," Gibson said in a statement.
The review was particularly critical in discussing the
Veterans Health Administration, which manages the VA medical
This part of the VA is marked by a lack of responsiveness
and an inability to effectively manage or communicate to
employees or veterans, and needs to be restructured and
reformed, the review found.
"A corrosive culture has led to personnel problems across
the department that are seriously impacting morale, and by
extension, the timeliness of healthcare," the report found. It
cited distrust between some VA employees, a history of
retaliation toward employees who raise concerns, and a lack of
accountability across the board.
Obama has asked Nabors to remain on assignment at the VA
temporarily to help the department.
The White House said a series of reforms have been started
to ease the pressure with 135,000 veterans contacted, 182,000
additional appointments scheduled and more schedulers trained to
handle the workload.
The VA oversees some 1,700 hospitals, clinics, nursing homes
and other facilities, making it the largest U.S. healthcare
The review found the VA relies on a 1985 electronic health
records system that predates the Internet, and cited a need for
more doctors, nurses and other health professionals. The agency
plans to bring in a new system in the coming year.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Sandra Maler and