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2014-05-29

Texas House members call for IG investigation into VA

Special to the Courier

Long simmering accusations that patient care has reached a nadir at VA medical facilities across the county has finally came to a head - in the Lone Star State at least.
During a press conference held at his San Antonio District Office on Tuesday, May 13, Rep. Lamar Smith called for an Inspector General investigation into allegations that Veterans Affairs officials in Central Texas manipulated medical appointment data in order to conceal long wait times for veterans seeking care.
According to media reports, employees at the North Central Federal Clinic in San Antonio, the Austin Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic and Waco Veterans Affairs Medical Center were instructed by supervisors to ensure that wait times for veterans were as "close to zero days as possible." An employee of Veterans Affairs who recently worked at all three clinics claims that staffers falsely logged patients' desired appointment dates to closely coincide with appointment openings. In reality, however, veterans were left waiting for months.
These new allegations come on the heels of reports that at least 40 veterans in Phoenix died while waiting to receive care.
Led by Smith, members of the Texas delegation wrote Veterans Affairs Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin requesting that he immediately initiate investigations into all three VA facilities.
"The policy of falsifying medical records is dishonest, deceptive, and injurious to veterans," the members wrote. "Swift action must be taken to protect the health and well-being of our nation's veterans."
The letter continued, "We understand that your office has staff in San Antonio reviewing these allegations. However, we want to make sure that your office is also investigating the potential misconduct that may have affected veterans seeking care in Waco and Austin. Any individuals found to have engaged in misconduct or mismanagement must face serious consequences."
The members urged Inspector General Griffin to "expeditiously and thoroughly investigate the claims regarding misconduct" and report back to Congress on his findings.
Twenty-three members of the House of Representatives from Texas joined Smith in calling for the IG investigation.