Serious Problems Persist at Southern Arizona VA Health Care System
Phoenix, AZ — Yesterday a new Inspector General (OIG) report revealed a myriad of problems with documenting the quality of care at the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System. The report found that the OIG did not have “reasonable assurance” that employees there are trained to reduce and prevent disruptive behaviors, that providers safely transfer patients from the facility, and that patients with identified learning barriers receive accommodations to ensure medication counseling is understood. In addition to these employee-induced safety hazards, the assessment identified six other red flags impacting veterans’ quality of care.
In November, another OIG report confirmed allegations that managers at the Ocotillo Clinic in Tucson directed staff to “zero out” patient wait times, in violation of the agency’s scheduling directive. This impacted wait times for 76 percent of over five thousand routine appointments within the clinic from December 2013 through August 2014. This means those appointments incorrectly had the same date for the patient’s desired date to be seen as the scheduled date.
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) Arizona Field Director Matt Dobson issued the following statement:
“It is disappointing that there are still continuing issues with quality of care and accountability within the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System. With a new Congress, a new VA Secretary and a new President, now is the time to end the dysfunction at the Department of Veterans Affairs and to start to put our veterans first. We encourage Arizona representatives to support the VA Accountability First Act of 2017, which would make these regular reports about VA dysfunction a thing of the past.”
This Thursday, the House of Representatives will vote on the 2017 VA Accountability First Act. If passed, the bill would drastically shorten the overall termination and appeals process for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees who are found to have engaged in misconduct. Currently, that process can take months or even years. The bill also empowers the VA Secretary to recoup bonuses awarded in error or given to employees who were later found to have engaged in misconduct. Additionally, the bill gives the VA Secretary the ability to reduce the pensions of VA employees who are convicted of felonies that influenced their job performance.
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) has signed on to co-sponsor the VA Accountability First Act of 2017. Rep. Sinema is the first Democrat to co-sponsor the measure.