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Report: Wait Times Manipulated at VA Hospitals in New Hampshire, Vermont

Thomas Fearon

New reports show the Manchester, N.H. and White River Junction, Vt. Veterans Administration Medical Centers manipulated records to make wait times for appointments appear shorter than they actually were.

The reports by the VA Office of Inspector General found that veterans at both hospitals were being scheduled according to appointment availability, not when the veteran wanted the appointment. 
According to the report, several employees at the White River Junction VA hospital were told that if they could not get an appointment for a patient within 14 days, then they were supposed to "enter the actual appointment date as the desired date, even if the patient wanted to be seen sooner, so there was a zero-day wait time." Manchester VA hospital employees received similar instructions.

Some veterans were asked to reschedule their appointments closer to the desired date, while others were simply given the soonest appointment.

Al Montoya, interim director of the White River Junction VA hospital, says many of these errors were a result of poor training.

"From that, there have been practices put in place in the scheduling package to make it so you cannot schedule in that fashion," Montoya says.

Montoya says these issues, which occurred as recently as 2014 and were promptly reported by former White River Junction VA Director Deborah Amdur, have been corrected by new safeguards, more staff, and better training.

Deborah Amdur left her position as director of the White River Junction VAMC in November 2015 to lead the Phoenix, Arizona VA. The Veterans Administration Hospital system in Phoenix was the epicenter of the VA scandal that surfaced in 2014. In February of that year, a whistleblower alleged that 40 veterans died waiting for appointments at the Arizona facility. The allegations exposed deliberate manipulation of wait-time records.

In Manchester, according to the reports, veterans seeking services from the VA Pain Clinic were waiting up to one year for some treatments. 

The IOG report indicates that claims of the existence of secret wait lists at the Manchester VA were unsubstantiated, and that there were no reports of harm to any veteran at either hospital as a result of the allegations.

Read the full reporton the White River Junction, Vermont VA Hospital. The VA Office of Inspector General issued two reports addressing numerous allegations at Manchester, New Hampshire VA Hospital. Read those hereand here.

Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered and Writers on a New England Stage at New Hampshire Public Radio. He has served as a producer/announcer/host of Weekend Edition Saturday at Vermont Public Radio and as a reporter/host of Morning Edition at WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina.
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