Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) December 14, 2017 – The care of 87 veterans awaiting mental health appointments at a Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital was delayed due to an unauthorized waiting list maintained by employees.
VA officials said there were no firings after the scandal emerged at the VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System in Omaha. They did not disclose why the list existed or who was responsible for keeping it. However, out of the two employees who were involved, one resigned while another retired. In addition, bonuses were withheld based on the performance data linked to the secret list investigation.
“It is unacceptable that such incidents are still occurring even several years after the Phoenix waiting list scandal,” commented Jim Fausone, a Michigan veterans attorney. “The VA needs to take concrete action to make sure errors with scheduling procedures do not occur again, not just at the Omaha facility, but also across other VA hospitals nationwide. Otherwise, veterans will continue to suffer in the pursuit of timely care.”
VA Secretary David Shulkin wrote three separate letters responding to Iowa and Nebraska senators about the waiting list. He said, “Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken if warranted.”
The letters blamed the unauthorized list on “training deficiencies” related to the Omaha VA facility’s medical support staff. They were allegedly mismanaging its electronic appointment list in violation of strict guidelines the VA issued in July 2016 for creating and maintaining waiting lists.
A compliance officer’s audit from this year showed that there were two whistleblower complaints about unauthorized appointment waiting lists at the Omaha VA mental health clinic.
It echoes a nationwide scandal first discovered at the Phoenix VA facility in 2014. Employees maintained secret lists that resulted in veterans dying while awaiting care. The Omaha facility was not among the 40 medical centers named in the scandal.
Shulkin’s letters said the veterans who had their names on the list received other forms of care while waiting for mental health appointments, such as inpatient treatment and counseling through primary care. However, he did not specify whether the veterans were told about the delays.
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