Veterans Affairs names interim director in Phoenix, employee placed on leave in Wyoming for delaying wait times

By Daniel S Levine,

The Department of Veterans Affairs has named a new director for the Phoenix VA hospital, which has been at the center of controversy in recent days. Meanwhile, a similar situation has been uncovered at the Cheyenne, Wyoming VA Medical Center, where an email appears to show that there were efforts to hide veterans’ long wait times for health care.

Phoenix director Sharon Helman was placed on administrative leave on May 1 after an investigation was launched, prompted by long wait times for veterans waiting for health care. The extended wait times may have lead to the deaths of at least 40 veterans.

Now, The Associated Press is reporting that Steve Young will Phoenix’s interim director. The VA health care system in Phoenix services around 85,000 veterans. Young was previously the Director of the Salt Lake City VA Health Care System.

CBS News obtained an email from the Cheyenne VA written by Telehealth Coordinator David Newman. He wrote how it seemed that all patients were being seen within the 14-day window, even if the patient had to wait far longer than 14 days.

“Yes, this is gaming the system a bit,” the memo read, since “when we exceed the 14 day measure, the front office gets very upset, which doesn't help us.”

Newman also instructed his staff to “get off the bad boys list" by "cancelling the visit (by clinic) and then rescheduling it with a desired date within that 14 day window.”

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki told CBS News that after he learned of the email Friday, he did put the employee on administrative leave. Shinseki himself has been asked to resign amid the scandals, but has refused. Instead, he’s calling for a full review of the VA’s policies.

Nevertheless, Congress is not happy and the House Committee on Veterans Affairs has issued a subpoena. “Since last year, VA officials have known about intentional efforts to falsify patient wait time data at the Fort Collins, Colo., Community-Based Outpatient Clinic, which is part of the Cheyenne VA Medical Center,” Rep. Jeff Miller, the chairman of the committee said in a statement, reports CNN.

Miller added that “the VA's reaction to the latest development in its delays in care scandal is faux outrage at its finest.”



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