VA looking into criminal charges on wait times


The Veterans Affairs Department is working with the Justice Department to determine if criminal charges should be brought against those who manipulated patient wait times, a senior official said Monday.

There is evidence of “some supervisors directing some of the methodologies to change the times,” Richard Griffin, the VA’s acting inspector general, told the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, noting that his office has planned for ongoing investigations at 69 department sites.

He said the agency is speaking with the Justice Department to see if the instances of fraud “rise to the level of criminal prosecution” but that nothing has been determined.

If criminal charges, or firings, do occur, Griffin said, “It will no longer be a game, and that will be the shot heard around the system."

Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said the insight Griffin provided was more than had been offered to date by the Justice Department.

Griffin said one of the wait-time schemes his office had encountered involved initially contacting a veteran 120 days before an appointment, then entering the appointment date into the system as the one desired by the veteran.

The IG's office last month released a report that found veterans at a Phoenix hospital had waited an average of 115 days for an initial doctor’s appointment, while the official date claimed the wait time was only 24 days. The investigation also found 1,700 veterans had been kept off official patient rolls.

The findings directly led to Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation on May 30.