(Reuters) - Supervisors instructed staff to falsify patient wait times at Veterans Affairs medical facilities in at least seven states to show they met performance measures, USA Today said on Thursday, citing reports by the agency’s inspector general.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has been under scrutiny since 2014 when a cover-up of long waiting lists and shoddy medical care for veterans at a hospital in Phoenix embarrassed the Obama administration.
“The reports detail for the first time since the Phoenix VA wait-time scandal in 2014 how widespread scheduling manipulation was throughout the VA,” USA Today said.
It said the manipulations gave the false impression that wait times at facilities in Arkansas, California, Delaware, Illinois, New York, Texas and Vermont met agency targets.
The paper said its story was based on 70 reports released following a Freedom of Information Act request from USA Today. About half of the 70 reports are from investigations that were completed more than a year ago.
Investigations launched by the inspector general into more than 100 facilities after the Phoenix scandal found that manipulations had been going on in some cases for as long as a decade, USA Today said.
Asked by Reuters to comment on the report, the agency referred to a statement it had issued in February which said the inspector general had substantiated intentional misuse of scheduling systems in 18 reports. Twenty-nine employees were disciplined as a result, the statement added.
USA Today said according to agency data, more than 480,000 veterans were waiting more than 30 days for an appointment as of March 15.
“VA whistle-blowers say schedulers still are manipulating wait times,” it added.
Reporting by Washington Newsroom; Editing by Sandra Maler