The Veterans Affairs Department says more than 57,000 U.S. military veterans have been waiting 90 days or more for their first VA medical appointments. On top of that, an additional 64,000 appear to have fallen through the cracks, never getting appointments after enrolling and requesting them.
The review indicated it's not just a backlog problem. Thirteen percent of schedulers in the facility-by-facility report on 731 hospitals and outpatient clinics reported being told by supervisors to falsify appointment schedules to make patient waits appear shorter.
The audit is the first nationwide look at the VA network in the uproar that began with reports two months ago of patients dying while awaiting appointments and of cover-ups at the Phoenix VA center. A preliminary review last month found that long patient waits and falsified records were "systemic" throughout the VA medical network, the nation's largest single health care provider serving nearly 9 million veterans.
The controversy forced VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign May 30. Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson says that VA officials have contacted 50,000 veterans across the country to get them off waiting lists and into clinics and are in the process of contacting 40,000 more.