VA clinic wait-time estimates keep rising

Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson has reportedly conceded that nearly a tenth of veterans wait at least 30 days to see a doctor at the agency’s medical facilities.

The new estimate is more than double the amount the troubled department reported last week in a White House-ordered audit of its medical network. That survey found 4 percent of patients nationwide waited longer than 30 days.

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“I don’t like that we’ve got more veterans waiting, but at least we’re getting better data,” Gibson told The Associated Press after touring a VA facility in Washington, D.C.

He added that the higher number, which will be included in a follow-up report to the audit due out Thursday, is an indication that more reliable data was being turned in by VA schedulers.

Sloan said he has “vastly greater confidence” in wait times compiled on VA computers but that more work must be done to ensure “data integrity.”

The administration's audit found that, nationwide, about 13 percent of VA staffers said they had been instructed to falsify wait times so it appeared that more veterans were treated within the agency’s stated 14-day goal. Nearly 8 percent of employees claimed they used “alternatives” to the official scheduling system.

The results came soon after an interim report from the VA’s inspector general that uncovered veterans at a facility in Phoenix had been made to wait an average of 115 days for an appointment, while official data claimed they waited an average of 24 days.

The House and Senate on Wednesday approved a conference committee to work on legislation to overhaul the VA’s scandal-ridden healthcare system.

The group includes Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and his House counterpart, Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.). It is unclear when negotiators will report out a final bill.

“My goal is to get this legislation onto the president’s desk as soon as we possibly can,” Sanders said in a statement. 

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