Secret appointment wait lists are alive and well at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), according to a letter from VA officials. The Omaha, Nebraska VA created and maintained a secret wait list for psychotherapy appointments that delayed care for 87 veterans in just 2017 alone.
The VA has blamed the wait lists on “training deficiencies” among support staff, but the VA has a sordid history with keeping off-the-books wait lists rather than working within the VA’s scheduling system. In 2014, the Phoenix VA was exposed for keeping secret wait lists of veterans waiting for appointments. Several veterans died while waiting for appointments on those wait lists. In the months and years that followed, reports from the Office of Inspector General found dozens of facilities around the country had also been manipulating their wait time data to give the appearance that their wait times were better than they were.
The VA Secretary stated that the patients in Omaha did receive other types of care while on the secret list, however that doesn’t detract from the larger issue. Omaha was not on the list of 40 medical facilities revealed in 2016 that kept secret wait lists. That means the problem is new to this facility. After the revelations of Phoenix three years ago, one would think that facilities would be even more sensitive to ensuring proper scheduling practices.
Without a culture shift at the VA towards accountability and duty to veterans, the status quo will continue.
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