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Tucson VA wait time deception confirmed by OIG

Posted at 10:36 PM, Nov 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-18 14:39:27-05
Tucson VA whistleblowers exposed serious wait times for veterans because of years of deceptive practices. 
Now a government investigation confirms -- they're right.

The latest report looked at one clinic within the Southern Arizona VA. The clinic reported almost 58 hundred appointments from December 2013 through August 2014. A good stat since that meant vets got the appointment times they wanted 76 percent of the time.But the report reveals those numbers were manipulated to look much better that they really were.

Gary Rameriz worked as a scheduler at the Tucson VA for 10 years. He came forward 9 month ago revealing managers had instructed him to manipulate patient schedules. He said co-workers asked patients if they were okay with an appointment scheduled months later -- a yes response was noted on the form.

Cavazos: So the patient is giving them permission to go beyond the 30 days. But do they know that? 
Ramirez: No.

The report found supervisors told schedulers to do that.

The V-A's acting director for Southern Arizona says some of these practices date back eight years -- though one whistleblower said -- in 2014 -- her supervisor told her she needed to manipulate patient appointments "and she showed me how to falsify the documentation in the computer," said the whistleblower.
 At the time Gutowski served as associate director. When asked if she knew how the scheduling manipulation took root. "I'm not able to answer that perhaps why that was the case. Today we want to encourage people to do the right thing for the veteran and ensure that we're providing quality and timely care," she said.
ow the local V-A says it has safeguards to keep workers from manipulating appointment stats and will try to determine who's responsible for the deceptive practice.

We'll continue to investigate.