CBS: Chicago VA Hospital Also Using Secret Wait List to Hide Delays

Wednesday, 14 May 2014 08:48 AM

By Melanie Batley

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A Chicago-area Veterans Affairs Hospital has allegedly been maintaining secret waiting lists to conceal how long patients have to wait before being seen by a physician, adding to the growing list of complaints leveled at the Department of Veterans Affairs, CBS News reported.

A social worker and employee at the Hines VA Medical Center in Illinois, Germaine Clarno, told CBS there are secret waiting lists from "all over the hospital," including inpatient, outpatient, surgery, and radiology departments, designed to give the false impression that veterans are being seen within the mandated two-week maximum.

What began as a scandal over duplicitous document-keeping at the VA office in Phoenix — a scheme apparently intended to conceal the fact that veterans were being left to languish in some cases over a year before getting access to a doctor — has already blown up into an Inspector General probe involving offices in Colorado, Wyoming, Texas, Arizona, and now Illinois, and possibly other states as well.

On Monday, GOP Rep. David Schweikert of Arizona told "America's Forum" that the revelations so far may be just the tip of the iceberg.

"Be prepared," Schweikert advised "America's Forum" hosts John Bachman and J.D. Hayworth Monday on Newsmax TV. "There's going to be more and more of this as the investigation gets deeper and deeper."

Clarno, at the Hines VA hospital, acknowledged it was akin to fraud, and the practice was caused by a bonus structure that rewards short wait times.

In April, CNN reported that long waiting times resulted in the deaths of at least 40 veterans at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, many of whom died while on a secret waiting list.

The Department of Veterans Affairs subsequently admitted that 23 veterans suffering from cancer died while awaiting medical appointments at VA hospitals throughout the system, while another 53 patients suffered some type of harm as a result of "consult" delays in gastrointestinal cancer screenings, including routine but life-saving colonoscopies.

The director at the Hines VA hospital told CBS News in a statement that there was "no direct evidence of any falsified wait times."

The Veterans Affairs Department is expected to visit the facility Wednesday as part of a national audit to determine how long veterans are waiting for healthcare, according to CBS News.

A hearing is scheduled in the Senate on Thursday about the widespread allegations.

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