CHARLOTTE, N.C. Word spread quickly to Charlotte-area veterans that the Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki had apologized for problems inside the VA and then submitted his resignation that was accepted by President Obama.
The wait-time numbers, already grim, may grow far worse as the investigation into doctored wait times at Veterans Affairs hospitals continues. The data includes figures at hospitals and health care centers that investigators say falsified their figures to make them appear far better than they actually are.
Despite the potentially false figures included in the data obtained by USA Today, the numbers show that at many hospitals, veterans already are waiting weeks sometimes months for care. In Nashville, it takes more than two months for the average new patient to see a doctor. In Atlanta, Gainesville, Fla., and Portland, Ore., veterans are put on hold for more than 50 days.
Only 19 of the VA s 140 health care facilities reported average wait times within the administration s target range. Some in Richmond, Va., Columbia, S.C. and Hampton, Va. said fewer than 20% of new patients got in to see a doctor within that 14-day time frame.
The VA has confirmed that 42 facilities are under investigation for having falsified their wait records. It is unclear exactly which hospitals are being scrutinized, although investigators singled out some in a recent report.
According to an Office of Inspector General report, the Phoenix VA Health Care System showed patients waited 24 days in 2013, while in reality the actual delay averaged nearly four months. In the first six months of 2014, Phoenix reported average wait times of 22 days, according to the data released Friday indicating that officials continued to conceal prolonged waits at the facility.
Numbers from other hospitals reveal a two-tiered system of care. Hawaii s VA Pacific Islands Health Care System reported that 42% of its patients saw doctors within 14 days. But those who didn t get seen quickly were left to linger: the average wait time for the rest was two and a half months.