Veterans Affairs Sec. Robert McDonald has laid out his agency’s response to a report scheduled to be released this week by the Office of Inspector General on the VA scheduling scandal.
The response highlights, as reported by USA Today:
- VA is working “to ensure that a ‘date-driven’ approach does not have the unintended impact of diverting attention from our primary goal of providing veterans with … health care.”
- VA will use external ethics experts to provide recommendations on selecting and hiring ethical leadership and staff, and how to communicate ethics expectations.
- VA will spend $400 million on staff overtime or private doctors to make sure veterans are treated in a timely manner (as of early August, the VA had spent $128 million in private care costs for 83,000 veterans).
- The VA says it has trained more than 8,200 schedulers nationwide on the appropriate way to schedule veteran patients. That number includes 764 VA employees in the Phoenix VA Health Care System.
- The VA will create an internal investigation board to identify those at the Phoenix VA Health Care System who were responsible for the scheduling problems there, and to determine any disciplinary actions that will be taken.
- The VA spent nearly $17 million in the Phoenix area to send veterans to private physicians and hospitals for more immediate access to health care.
- Resources added at the Phoenix VA Health Care System: 10 new psychiatrists, six psychologists, four social workers, 53 doctors, nurses and other caregivers.
Update: The OIG says it could not substantiate the allegations because the whistleblower who made them did not provide the OIG with a list of 40 patient names. The OIG report does find 28 instances of delays in case associated with access to care or patient scheduling. Of those 28 patients, six were deceased. An additional 17 care “deficiencies” were identified by the OIG unrelated to access or scheduling. Of those 17 patients, 14 were deceased. You can read the OIG’s Q&A here.