OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: VA audit details wait times

THE TOPLINE: More than 57,000 veterans have been waiting at least 90 days to see a doctor at Veterans Affairs’ clinics and hospitals across the country, a White House-mandated review of the agency has found.

The internal review uncovered 57,436 veterans were waiting for their first appointment at a government medical site and another 63,869 who enrolled in the VA health system over the past 10 years and requested appointments but haven’t received them.

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The audit looked at 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics and found 13 percent of agency schedulers said managers had told them to falsify appointment dates to make waiting times appear shorter to comply with a 14-day goal for providing care.

Roughly 112 locations were singled out for further review and investigation, according to the report.

Republicans pounced on the survey results.  Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) each called the findings “a national disgrace.”

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said the audit showed “disturbing proof” of corruption throughout the VA and called on the Justice Department to “get off the sidelines” and start a criminal investigation into the agency.

Miller’s panel is set to meet Monday night to discuss the audit’s findings as well as those of an ongoing VA inspector general investigation.

EYES TURN TO THE SENATE. The release of the VA audit put even greater pressure on Senate lawmakers to pass legislation to revamp the agency’s troubled healthcare system.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would bring a bipartisan bill as soon as the measure is through being drafted.

“I am happy to schedule a vote on it as quickly as possible,” Reid said on the Senate floor Monday.

The legislation, brokered last week by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and John McCain (R-Ariz.), would grant the VA secretary latitude to dismiss senior executives, devote $500 million to hiring more doctors and nurses and allow veterans to seek care at non-VA providers if an agency site is more than 40 miles away.

“Incompetent administrators and those who have manipulated wait-time data should be dismissed at once,” Sanders said in a statement on the internal review.

He said he hoped the bipartisan legislation would reach the Senate floor “in a few days.”

PUBLIC WEIGHS IN ON BERGDAHL. A majority of Americans believe President Obama should have notified congressional lawmakers before making the prisoner trade that freed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, according to a new poll.

Sixty-four percent of respondents said the White House should be required to inform Congress before making such a move, while only 34 percent endorsed the idea of the president acting alone.

The ongoing controversy prompted Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to introduce a bill that would prevent President Obama from making any prisoner exchanges for detainees at the U.S. facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

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-Air Force deploys stealth bombers to Europe

-Bergdahl: Don’t call me sergeant

-High marks for acting VA secretary Sloan Gibson

 

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