AL reps react to VA audit showing high rate of manipulation - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

AL reps react to VA audit showing high rate of manipulation

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

On Tuesday, Alabama's U.S. representatives responded to an audit that was published about access to Veterans Affairs facilities. The audit shows that the Central Alabama's employees reported a much hire rate of being told to manipulate wait times.

[DOCUMENT: VA Access Audit (.pdf)]

Rep. Martha Roby (R-District 2)

U.S. Representative Martha Roby says strong evidence shows that manipulation of patient scheduling at the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care Administration was a "facility-led, standard operating procedure" as a huge number of staff members confirmed in a survey.

More than 57 percent of the staff members at the Montgomery-based CAVHCS said they were given "instruction" by facility management to manipulate patient wait times, Roby said, citing an access audit from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Roby called the manipulation "off the charts" as compared to a national average of other peer systems where just under 13 percent reported being instructed to manipulate wait times.

"This survey of staff is consistent with what we've heard from whistleblowers," Roby said. "Evidence suggests that schedule manipulation isn't an accident at CAVHCS; it's an outcome expected by the administration." 

Other systems showed much lower rates of reported manipulation. In Birmingham, the audit shows 8.57, while Atlanta's percentage was 11.54 and Tuscaloosa's was 16.67 percent. The closest to the Central Alabama percentage among the Southeast region was Charleston, SC with 38.71 percent.

"Our efforts to investigate and expose instances of wrongdoing continue, and I'll keep you updated.

U.S. House and Senate negotiators have approved a $17 billion compromise bill to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"My goal is making sure the bill streamlines local, private care for veterans, removes barriers for firing problem VA employees, and prioritizes funding for critical needs like mental healthcare, suicide prevention, and fixing the electronic records system,"  Roby says.

The bill now goes to the full House and Senate, where approval is expected within a week.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-District 3)

Congressman Mike Rogers called on the new Secretary of the Veterans Administration, Robert McDonald, to "leave no stone unturned" in his efforts to get to the bottom of the ongoing scandals.

"Shocking allegations against VA facilities like those in the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System continue to come to light," Rogers said. "East Alabama's Veterans deserve the best possible care America can offer, and I am hopeful with new leadership, the VA can begin to right the wrongs done to too many of our Veterans."

Rogers agreed with his colleagues that Secretary McDonald needs to visit the Montgomery VA and develop a plan to right the system's many reported problems.

"The investigation at the Montgomery VA system has uncovered shocking and appalling practices that must be addressed immediately," Rogers said. "No stone can be left unturned when it comes fixing the VA's many problems. Our Veterans have given our country their all, and we owe it to them to provide them the best care possible."

Rep. Terri Sewell (D-District 7)

Congresswoman Terri Sewell released the following statement on Tuesday after the release of the audit.

"Today's findings represent the continuance of woefully unacceptable practices by CAVHCS. It is simply egregious that staff received instruction from superiors to manipulate records," said Rep. Sewell. "Earlier today I spoke with Mr. Charles Sepich, the VA's Southeast Network Director, to express my deep concerns with the results of this audit and to better understand the plans being implemented to address the institutional and administrative failures within the Montgomery and Tuskegee VA. It is time to stop the finger pointing and focus on solving this emergency. Our veterans deserve immediate solutions to the issues at CAVHCS and I will accept nothing less."

Sewell went on to say, "I firmly believe that no Veteran who has put his or her life at risk for the security of our nation should be denied timely and quality care by the VA. We have a duty to ensure that our nation's VA system works for our nation's veterans. I am carefully reviewing the compromise legislation to ensure that it addresses the immediate need to improve access to quality care for our veterans. Further, my office will continue to demand accountability and improvements that need to be made immediately at CAVHCS."

Copyright 2014 WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

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