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CVA on VA IG report: post-COVID backlogs were avoidable

By Concerned Veterans for America

CVA on VA IG report: post-COVID backlogs were avoidable

Millions of canceled appointments, not rescheduled, veterans care at risk

 

ARLINGTON, Va.–Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) Executive Director Nate Anderson released the following statement following the release of the VA Office of the Inspector General Report on appointment management at the Veterans Health Administration during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is unacceptable the VA put so many veterans at risk by canceling millions of appointments and failing to follow up or offer alternative health care options during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving forward, the VA must transparently share their strategy with partner veteran organizations for re-contacting veterans who needed care but never received it. We know wait times at the VA are increasing. The VA has a responsibility to provide timely and quality care to our nation’s veterans, and if they cannot deliver that care, they have an obligation under the VA MISSION Act to give those veterans the freedom to seek care from community providers.”

The report included the following findings:

  • “The review team’s analysis of VHA data determined that VA medical facilities had about 2.3 million appointments that they canceled from March 15, 2020, through May 1, 2020, with no indication of follow-up or tracking at the time of review. Because facilities do not have a tracking mechanism associated with these appointments, such as an open consult or a reminder to call and reschedule them later, this presents a risk to patient care.”
  • VA guidance on how to classify cancellations changed over time, as a result often cancellations were listed as canceled by the patient, when in fact, the VA initiated the cancellations. The OIG continued, “It is important to note that when appointments are classified as canceled by the patient, VA’s calculated wait time for such appointments resets. Given that many appointments have been classified as canceled by the patient, individual and cumulative wait time data will be of questionable reliability during and following the pandemic.”
  • “Notably, about 1.7 million cancellations that occurred from February 1 through May 1, 2020, were for appointments previously scheduled out beyond May 1, 2020. This included about 197,000 appointments with an appointment date in August 2020 and later that were canceled. […] VHA’s OVAC did not provide a response regarding reasons or scenarios in which facilities would or should cancel appointments scheduled for August or later.”

The VA concurred with the OIG’s findings and has promised to complete appropriate follow up by October 2020.

 

BACKGROUND

March 25, 2020, CVA issued a statement following reports that the VA planned to pause access to community care under the VA MISSION Act and limit health care options for veterans.

March 20, 2020, CVA sent eleven recommendations to the VA, White House, and Congress urging leaders to ensure veterans continue to receive access to care and the VA fully utilized its resources to meet the dynamic needs of the veteran population it serves.