A preliminary report by the Inspector General revealed that its criminal investigation of the country’s beleaguered Veteran Affairs health system has expanded from 26 facilities to 42.
The report, which you can read here, was in reference to allegations at the VA at Phoenix, specifying that it “substantiated that significant delays in access to care negatively impacted the quality of care at this medical facility.”
But it also signals that the national investigation has expanded. Namely:
“To date, we have ongoing or scheduled work at 42 VA medical facilities and have identified instances of manipulation of VA data that distort the legitimacy of reported waiting times. When sufficient credible evidence is identified supporting a potential violation of criminal and/or civil law, we have contacted and are coordinating our efforts with the Department of Justice. “
It’s not clear whether the VA North Texas system is part of the probe, although it’s possible that it is. In an interview last week, Director Jeff Milligan said investigators from the VA’s Office of Inspector General visited the local branch “on two or three occasions over the last week.”
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson has called for the IG to investigate whistleblower claims that employees were told to destroy appointment records. Milligan says auditors from the VA specifically analyzed system-wide scheduling records and told him they found no evidence that supported those allegations. In an email, VA spokesman Froylan Garza said the IG has not returned to North Texas since those visits nor has the Department of Justice contacted the facility.
“As of today, we have not found evidence that employees are intentionally manipulating wait times. If any employee is found to have intentionally manipulated wait times, this will result in swift disciplinary action and referral for possible criminal investigation,” Garza wrote.
The IG’s office has not named the specific systems under investigation, fearful that it would affect its outcome. However, the preliminary report does cite 18 past IG reports that found bloated wait times at locations across the country. One of those is VA North Texas, from 2012.
VA officials say they’ve corrected the complaints cited in the report.