The director of Fayetteville’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center says a critical performance audit on veteran wait times by the VA inspector general’s office was outdated and inaccurate. “The team reviewed a small sample of appointments from 2014,” said FVAMC Director Elizabeth Goolsby. “Discrepancies identified by the inspector general on patient wait times resulted from the IG’s use of a methodology that was inconsistent with VHA policies at the time of the audit,” she added. Goolsby responded to criticisms raised by U.S. Senators Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). The Veterans Health Administration is the component of the Department of Veterans Affairs that implements the medical assistance program of the VA through the administration and operation of VA Medical Centers, Outpatient Clinics, Community Based Outpatient Clinics and VA Community Living Centers.
Burr and Tillis sent a joint letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin last week in response to what they called “a troubling inspector general report (released earlier this month) on veteran wait times.” The letter said, in part, the senators were concerned that ”across the VA’s Mid-Atlantic Healthcare Network actual wait times were drastically different than what had been reported” by VA medical facilities in Asheville, Durham, Fayetteville, Salisbury and in Virginia. In their letter the senators said. “The IG found that facilities did not consistently conduct scheduler audits, and so we ask you to require that an individual … is responsible for ensuring that the required scheduling audits are completed as prescribed.”
Goolsby replied “All scheduling audits and follow-up training at the Fayetteville Veterans Affairs Medical Center were compliant with VHA requirements.” She stated this in response to an inquiry from Up & Coming Weekly.
The actual IG report was dated January of this year but contained outdated findings. Goolsby noted that Burr and Tillis relied on the IG audit of a small sample taken three years ago which concluded “Veterans…deserve to be seen more quickly…and Congress, veterans, and 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 was also signed by U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.).
Goolsby released current wait times: “We are pleased to say that VA’s most recent wait time data reveals as of Feb. 15, 2017, the average wait time for veterans to receive an appointment at the Fayetteville VAMC is 3.63 days for primary care; 14.88 for specialty care; and 5.45 for mental health; this is down from Dec. 15, 2014 figures of 29.02 days for primary care; 19.07 for specialty care; and 7.35 for mental health,” the director outlined. “Additionally, we offer same day service for primary care and mental health for veterans with urgent needs,” she concluded. “Fayetteville VA remains committed to providing our Veterans high quality, safe patient care, in a timely manner. This is care these veterans have justly earned,” Goolsby emphasized.