The Department of Veterans’ Affairs inspector general has not released reports on investigations precipitated by the agency’s fake wait list scandal that made headlines nearly two years ago.
USA Today reported that the agency’s watchdog has not publicly released reports on the findings of investigations into 73 VA hospital across the country. While the inspector general found 51 instances of scheduling problems through the investigations, lawmakers and the public cannot know which facilities were affected by wait problems because the reports on the probes have not been released.
It also remains impossible to know whether the scheduling issues resulted in the deaths of veterans. The wait-time investigations were completed months ago.
The wait list scandal erupted in April 2014 when whistleblowers reported that managers at the VA hospital system in Phoenix, Arizona, kept secret wait lists to conceal the long times that veterans waited for care. Dozens of veterans were believed to have died waiting for care. The controversy eventually led to the resignation of then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and the passage of bipartisan legislation to boost care and increase accountability at the VA.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from USA Today, a spokeswoman for the VA’s office of inspector general said that the reports on the investigations will be released "shortly."
Catherine Gromek, the spokeswoman, said that a law signed by President Obama in December mandating the inspector general to release investigative reports within three days of their completion did not apply to the wait-time probes.
"The reports of [wait-time] investigation are not issued and do not make a recommendation or suggest a corrective action," Gromek stated. "We transfer our findings to VA’s Office of Accountability and Review [OAR] for any administrative action they deem appropriate."
Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle criticized the VA inspector general for not acting in complete transparency.
"VA’s challenges will only fester if they are kept shrouded in secrecy," Rep. Jeff Miller (R., Fla.), chair of the House Committee on Veterans’s Affairs, said. Republicans in Congress, Miller chief among them, have pushed to increase accountability at the VA.
While the inspector general has not released reports documenting the investigations prompted by the wait list scandal, multiple reports published by the watchdog in recent months have exposed inadequate care, mismanagement, and long waits at VA hospitals across the country.
An investigation documented earlier this month found that veterans seeking care at a VA outpatient clinic in Colorado Springs faced long waits and, in some cases, were denied care. Scheduling staffers made wait times appear shorter by using incorrect dates.