Health & Science

Why Some VA Hospitals Have Been Manipulating Wait Times

An internal investigation has found that some Department of Veteran Affairs scheduling clerks throughout Texas went as far as to manipulate data to hide wait times.


inpatient training room
A view of an inpatient training room in Fort Belvoir Community Hospital Oaks Pavilion in Virginia.

We’ve heard the story time and time again – U.S. military veterans unable to see a doctor, wait times as long as seven months, with veterans dying without care. Now, a long-awaited internal investigation has found that some Department of Veteran Affairs scheduling clerks throughout Texas went as far as to manipulate data to hide wait times.

Jeremy Schwartz, a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman, says the report stemmed from a 2014 complaint from a scheduling clerk at the Austin outpatient clinic, in which he says he and other clerks were asked to “zero out” patient wait times. The VA Hospital measures wait times between the day that a patient wants an appointment and when the first available date is.

“His allegation was the clerks were being directed to make those dates one in the same,” he says. “The result was a zero wait time and the result also was we had no idea what the actual wait time was.”

What you’ll hear in this segment:

– The conclusions that VA officials came to, from the report about

– Who Office of the Inspector General investigators talked to, including clerks from Austin, San Antonio and Kerrville

– What the clerks feared might happen if they didn’t “zero out” wait times and how the supervisors’ stories conflicted with that

This story comes out of the Texas Station Collaborative, a new joint project of KERA in North Texas, Houston Public Media, KUT in Austin and Texas Public Radio in San Antonio. For more information about this story, visit the Texas Standard Website

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