• 55°

U.S. Senators call for action following VA audit

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — A bipartisan group of U.S. senators is calling for corrective action after a federal audit found longer-than-reported wait times at a group of VA hospitals that includes Salisbury.

On March 2, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General released an audit showing staff at VA hospitals incorrectly calculated wait times. The inspector general’s calculations showed that actual wait times in the Mid-Atlantic Care Network were longer than previously reported. Veterans were waiting even longer for care at private facilities as part of the Choice Program.

In Salisbury, for example, there was a 23-day difference between the specialty care number reported by VA staff and the Office of Inspector General. The average specialty care wait time for the Choice Program was 64 days in Salisbury, according to the audit.

On Monday, Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis said they have joined a bipartisan group of senators to request more information about problems found in the report. Tillis and Burr were joined by another Republican senator, Johnny Isakson of Georgia — and three Democrats, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both of Virginia, and Jon Tester of Montana.

The senators wrote that veterans across the country deserve to be seen more quickly than the audit shows in the Mid-Atlantic Care Network, which includes VA hospitals and clinics in North Carolina and Virginia.

“The American public must be able to trust that the wait time information being provided by VA is accurate. That we, once again, cannot trust VA data is more than disappointing,” the senators wrote.

The letter makes a series of recommendations to VA Secretary David Shulkin. They include:

• Conduct a nationwide retraining of appointment schedulers, either virtual or in person, by the end of the federal fiscal year.

• Conduct an analysis of the front-end process involved in scheduling veterans for appointments through the Choice Program.

• Require an individual at each care network — the Mid-Atlantic Care Network, for example — to take responsibility for ensuring the scheduling process is audited.

• Identify a person at each care network to conduct scheduling audits quarterly.

• Conduct a thorough review of channels of communication used to publish wait time data.

“It appears, based on this audit, that incorrect information is being published without validation,” the senators wrote.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

Comments

Crime

Blotter: Man found on church property with litany of drugs

Crime

Man charged in connection to 2019 overdose death

Business

‘It’s our big time’: Salisbury Farmers Market reopens Saturday

Education

Schools capital funding still frozen as RSS sends local budget to county

Business

Shields, Cheerwine Festival receive N.C. Main Street Awards

Kannapolis

Duke University launches kidney disease study in Kannapolis for people of African descent

Education

Horizons Unlimited will hold in-person summer camps

Education

Education briefs: Catawba planning for more in-person activities, free summer school tuition

Coronavirus

County’s full COVID-19 vaccinations top 22,600

High School

High school golf: With Merrell, Mustangs back on top

Local

Spencer investigating rat problem on South Iredell Street

News

Livingstone, Mission House Church to host national ‘Black Voters Matter’ listening session

Education

Shoutouts

Business

Groundbreaking on Pennant Square signals next phase in downtown Kannapolis revitalization

Nation/World

J&J vaccine to remain in limbo while officials seek evidence

Nation/World

Prosecutors: No charges for officer in Capitol riot shooting

Nation/World

Biden to pull US troops from Afghanistan, end ‘forever war’

Nation/World

Former Minnesota cop charged in shooting of Black motorist

Crime

Blotter: April 14

Elections

Former North Carolina Gov. McCrory enters US Senate race

Crime

Salisbury woman arrested in Myrtle Beach for abducting child

Health

County updates health director job description, will advertise for position

High School

High school tennis: East beats Carson, still hopes to share NPC title

Elections

Board of Elections to purchase upgraded voting equipment using federal grant