U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, is one of 24 members of the Texas delegation requesting an inspector general investigation into the allegations that Veterans Affairs offices in Central Texas manipulated medical appointment data to conceal long wait times for veterans seeking care.
If VA employees are manipulating patient data, then it is due to an accountability and leadership problem, not funding, Carter said in a statement. Congress has consistently increased funding to the VA to support the commitments made to veterans, the release said.
The Office of Inspector General investigates all aspects of VA health care, said Deborah Meyer, spokeswoman for the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, which includes the Temple and Waco VA hospitals and clinics, and the Austin outpatient clinic.
“OIG investigations are not unusual,” Meyer said. “In fact, we welcome their scrutiny to ensure we are properly fulfilling our mission to serve veterans as well as to reassure veterans and the public of the integrity of our health care system. In addition, Central Texas Veterans Health Care routinely investigates all allegations of less than adequate care and, if warranted, takes appropriate corrective actions.”
The letter to the VA inspector general was sent in reaction to a whistleblower reporting to local media that employees at the Waco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the Austin Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic and the North Central Federal Clinic in San Antonio were told by supervisors to ensure that wait times for veterans were as short as possible. These instructions reportedly led to VA staff manipulating patients’ desired appointment dates to coincide with appointment openings.
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, chairs the Texas Senate’s Veterans Affairs Committee. On Monday, she called for an independent investigation of the wait time concerns at the clinics. She demanded accountability from top VA officials over the whistleblower’s allegations.
“If found true, these actions represent a terrible breach of trust with veterans who rely on the VA health care system,” Van de Putte said in a statement.
“The performance standard for veterans to see a doctor is 14 days,” Van de Putte said. “However, my own staff has been told that the nearest appointment was four months away.”