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Audit: 76 percent of VA facilities report at least one instance of schedulers potentially falsifying records

Christian Petersen / Getty Images News

An audit of all Veterans Affairs medical facilities around the country confirmed what we already knew: the VA's scheduling issues are indeed systemic.

The results released Monday showed 13 percent of staffers across 76 percent of VA facilities were given instructions to schedule patients without regard to the patient's desired date, which could indicate an attempt to falsify records. But the audit did not determine whether these activities were intentionally fraudulent behavior.

At 24 locations, respondents said they even felt threatened or coerced by superiors to manipulate the scheduling records.

The audit, which mostly built on previously released findings, also reemphasizes that the VA scandal is largely a story of perverse incentives. The VA's policies ask hospital administrators to schedule patients in a timely manner, with financial bonuses offered for seeing patients within 14 days of their desired appointment. But that 14-day goal, as the audit points out, is unrealistic.

As a result, some VA officials, including those at the controversial Phoenix VA hospital, seemingly manipulated records to look like they were seeing patients in a timely manner so they could still receive their financial bonuses.

The good news is the VA is already working to address these perverse incentives. Last week, acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson announced the agency is abandoning the 14-day wait time goal for scheduling patients. The VA will also deploy special human resources teams to recruit additional staff, which should help fill doctor shortages that made the 14-day goal unrealistic in the first place.

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