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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Audit: Rochester VA 'felt pressure' to hide delays

  • An internal audit has found that staff at the Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Rochester "felt pressure to manipulate" appointment data to hide delays in medical care.
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  • An internal audit has found that staff at the Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Rochester "felt pressure to manipulate" appointment data to hide delays in medical care.
    The audit by the VA's Veterans Health Administration was ordered earlier this year by former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. The report released this week follows up on an audit of 900 Veterans Affairs' facilities throughout the U.S.
    "The audit information is troubling, but not shocking give the culture we've uncovered at VA in recent months and the pressure to hit unrealistic wait-time goals," said U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., a member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee who represents Rochester.
    In response to alleged cover-ups of wait times at VA facilities, Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress have reached an agreement that will provide $10 billion in emergency funding to allow veterans to seek private care rather than face long wait times at Veterans Affairs medical facilities. Walz was a member of the House-Senate conference that negotiated the deal.
    "(The audit) underscores the importance of the ... legislation we passed. This legislation ends the practice of using wait-time metrics for performance goals," Walz said.
    Minneapolis VA officials told the Star Tribune they will have to wait until the VA Office of the Inspector General in Washington, D.C., completes its review to find out what happened in the Rochester clinic. The audit found that "staff . felt pressure to manipulate desired date in order to meet performance measure."
    "We don't have enough information . to really take action on that. When there's a further level of review, we will then take the appropriate . suggested or needed actions," said Patrick Kelly, director of the Minneapolis VA Health Care System said.
    The report found no offenses in the St. Cloud VA Health Care System.

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