VA Inspector General Continues Probe into Wait Times, Misconduct
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Almost two years after the director of the Central Alabama Vertans Health Care System was fired for mismanagement, an Inspector General probe of paitent wait time manipulation and other misconduct within the system is ongoing.
U.S. Representative Martha Roby, who recently met with officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, said amid all the positive improvements at CAVHCS, holding bad actors accountable is important.
“The Inspector General’s Office confirmed that its investigations are still open – including potential criminal investigations.
“Let me tell you why that’s important: We are finally getting some much-needed improvements, and that’s great. But, the abuses that were allowed for years were unacceptable, and people need to be held accountable so that it never happens again.”
During the VA scandal of 2014, Roby worked with whistleblowers and the press to uncover major instances of misconduct, negligence and mismanagement inside the Central Alabama VA, including:
- Pervasive manipulation of veteran patient scheduling data, as a national-high of more than 57 percent of employees reported that managers instructed them to change appointment times to hide long waits;
- More than 1000 patient X-Rays, some showing malignancies, went missing for months and years;
- A pulmonologist was caught twice falsifying more than 1200 patient records, but somehow given a satisfactory review;
- An employee took a recovering veteran to a crack house, bought him drugs and paid for prostitutes all to extort his benefits. When caught, the employee wasn’t fired - not until a year and half later after Roby’s office exposed it publicly.
In March 2015, Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin told Roby in a hearing that “Our criminal investigative team continues to have open work in Central Alabama.”
This week, OIG confirmed to Roby’s office and The Montgomery Advertiser that investigators were “working as quickly as possible but without sacrificing thoroughness on the wait time issues at Montgomery,” and that the criminal probe remains “pending work.”
Roby said she looked forward to working with Dr. Linda Boyle, who was recently announced as the new, permanent director of the Central Alabama VA. CAVHCS has languished without a permanent director for two years, which is not conducive to improving outcomes, Roby said.
“After two years, this is welcome news. The culture of any organization is set by leadership. I believe no single action is more important toward improving veterans’ healthcare in Central Alabama than having a permanent director in place who is committed to serving veterans and empowered to make the necessary changes.
“I look forward to meeting Dr. Boyle in person soon and I stand ready to help her be successful.”
Meanwhile, the Central Alabama VA continues to improve access to care. Average wait times for completed appointments have been cut in half, while Choice referrals to outside providers are up dramatically.
Much of the improvement can be can be attributed to the continued recruitment of key health care staff, from nurses and doctors to senior managers. Roby praised the progress but said more is necessary.
“We’ve made improvements at the VA. You can see it in the numbers – the improvement of wait times; you can hear it from veterans who have seen firsthand the improvement in care. But, we have a long way to go. We still have a lot of work to do.
“For the office of the Inspector General to continue its investigation to hold accountable those who have done wrong is very important. It’s important that folks know that, whereas we have made some improvements, I’m going to continue to make this a priority so we can get it right.”