VA orders facility directors to regularly review scheduling
The directors at Pittsburgh and other Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities will have to personally review their scheduling procedures at least once every 30 days, according to a directive handed down on Wednesday by Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson.
Gibson, who took over the agency after Eric Shinseki's resignation May 30, is trying to steer the embattled VA through a nationwide scandal over secret wait lists for veterans seeking care and charges that the bureaucracy shields its leaders rather than holds them accountable.
“Our top priority is getting veterans off of wait lists and into clinics,” Gibson said in a statement.
The announcement says directors will have to talk in person with schedulers to ensure they're following VA policy. The announcement doesn't mention talking to veterans in person about scheduling performance.
VA public affairs spokeswoman Ramona Joyce issued an email response that didn't directly answer a Tribune-Review inquiry about the announcement's omission of talking with veterans. Gibson “has been clear about his view that veterans, veteran service organizations and all stakeholders play an important role in making the department better,” she said.
Dr. David Macpherson, interim VA Pittsburgh director, will meet with veterans in addition to schedulers to talk about wait times, VA Pittsburgh spokesman Mark Ray said.
VA leaders met with vendors on Wednesday as they prepare to take bids on a new scheduling system. Last week, the House and Senate passed bills to make it easier for veterans to get VA-paid care in private hospitals if they can't get an appointment quickly, or if they live more than 40 miles from a VA hospital.
The House bill would cost about $44 billion over five years, compared to $35 billion over 10 years for the Senate bill, according to preliminary estimates by the Congressional Budget Office.
The Government Accountability Office noted that it's “not possible” to know how long veterans wait for private-sector care because the VA doesn't track wait times outside of its system.
More than 630 veterans waited longer than a year on a secret list at the VA Pittsburgh, the agency acknowledged. On Friday, Gibson suspended with pay VA Pittsburgh director Terry Gerigk Wolf.
VA leaders said they suspended her not because of the wait list, but because of a Legionnaires' disease outbreak at the VA Pittsburgh during which at least six veterans died and 16 others were sickened between February 2011 to November 2012.
An internal VA investigation found schedulers across the country manipulated wait times to make it appear as though hospitals met the agency's two-week wait time goal for appointments.
“Veterans must trust their health care system and these reviews are an important step toward restoring integrity in all our scheduling activities,” Gibson said.
Mike Wereschagin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Photos offer clue to assailant in fatal North Side Pittsburgh stabbling
- Pirates bow out of postseason in quiet fashion
- Point State Park honored as top-notch public space
- Advocacy groups call for closer scrutiny of charter schools
- Ground broken for fourth building at Pittsburgh International Business Park
- PennDOT to install art murals along Route 28
- First overnight closure of the Parkway West begins Thursday
- Spokesman for India’s PM tells Pitt audience of pro-business agenda
- $5M Penn Avenue reconstruction project is ‘killing everything’
- Newsmaker: Taris Vrcek
- Police: Estranged husband fatally shot by woman’s boyfriend after break-in attempt in Esplen