SHAHEEN CONTINUES PUSH FOR AUDITS OF VA FACILITIES

In light of latest damning report of VA mismanagement, Shaheen calls for ongoing, random, independent audits to asses VA effectiveness, restore public confidence

June 25, 2014

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) yesterday called on Acting Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Sloan Gibson to establish ongoing, random, external audits to verify VA facility compliance with current policy and future reforms. The call follows a damning report that officials at the Phoenix VA Medical Center altered the time of death for veterans to conceal that they were awaiting appointments when they passed away.

“The ongoing problems at the VA continue to raise serious concerns and it’s obvious that reforms must be implemented immediately,” Shaheen said. “Continuing, random, external audits will provide objective assessments of employee performance and policy effectiveness, as well as boost public confidence that these serious problems are actually being addressed and avoid a return to current practices.”

Shaheen has repeatedly called for reforms to address ongoing mismanagement issues at the VA and expanded health care access for New Hampshire veterans. Many provisions from her Veterans Access to Care Accountability Act were cleared by the Senate earlier this month, including provisions to ban bonuses from being paid to VA officials involved in mismanagement. The bipartisan Senate legislation also included Shaheen’s provisions requiring veterans be contacted within 48 hours and scheduled an appointment with an outside medical facility within one week if found to have been delayed access to care.

The full text of Senator Shaheen’s letter to Acting Secretary Gibson is included below:

The Honorable Sloan Gibson

Acting Secretary

Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Ave, NW

Washington, DC 20010

Dear Secretary Gibson:

I write regarding the deeply troubling reports of misconduct at the Phoenix VA Medical Center and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) effort to overhaul its patient scheduling process.  While I appreciate your attention to this issue and the reforms recently announced by your office, I strongly urge you to consider establishing random, external audits to independently verify compliance with both current VA policy and future reforms.   

As you know, the Department’s scheduling system is broken.  In all, we know that more than sixty percent of VA facilities were found to have improperly recorded appointment requests, while thirteen percent of schedulers reported administrative pressure to falsify records.  I was also shocked and saddened to learn yesterday that VA personnel at the Phoenix VA Medical Center altered the times of death for numerous veterans to conceal the fact that they were awaiting appointments when they passed away.  The culpability of the VA’s own management in furthering this crisis has seriously compromised the Department’s credibility in conducting internal oversight. 

To that end, I urge you to immediately establish a process for random, external audits.  External audits not only provide objective assessments of employee performance and policy effectiveness, they also help boost public confidence that these serious problems are actually being addressed.  Moreover, random audits provide a powerful deterrent against future wrongdoing by creating the perception that misconduct could be discovered at any time.  I included a requirement for random external audits in my recent legislation, the Veterans Access to Care Accountability Act (S. 2423), which is pending before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  However, I encourage you to implement this proposal as soon as possible.     

Our nation has a collective obligation to provide the best possible health care for the men and women that willingly put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf.  Thank you for your consideration and for you continued service to our nation.

Sincerely,

Jeanne Shaheen

United States Senator