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Published: Tuesday, 6/10/2014 - Updated: 1 month ago

HEALTH CARE

Ann Arbor V.A. among 112 sites slated for review

Lucas Co. official says it’ll take months or years to fix issues

BY FEDERICO MARTINEZ
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs Hospital Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs Hospital
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ANN ARBOR — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs released a harsh report Monday that accuses 112 V.A. sites, including the Ann Arbor Healthcare System that also serves northwest Ohio veterans, of "inappropriate practices," including doctoring data so it appears that more veterans are being served, and served more quickly than they really are.

According to the nationwide audit, the practices by the Ann Arbor V.A. “are widespread enough to require the V.A. to re-examine its entire performance management system and, in particular, whether current measures and targets for access are realistic or sufficient."

Derek D. Atkinson, a spokesman for the V.A. Ann Arbor Healthcare System, acknowledged on Monday that the Ann Arbor agency is slated for further review.

“Although we do not know the reason for the follow-up visits or who will be conducting them, we will work in full cooperation with the audit team to address any issues they may have,” Mr. Atkinson said in a written statement.

“V.A. Ann Arbor Healthcare System’s mission is to honor America’s veterans by providing exceptional health care that improves their health and well-being. We provide high-quality health care to more than 61,000 veterans with over 800,000 inpatient and outpatient encounters.”

According to findings in an audit conducted by the V.A. on May 15, thousands of veterans seeking health services at the Ann Arbor VA have been on waiting lists for up to 90 days.

Some veterans could have been waiting longer, but the audit only lists “over 30 days” for veterans who have previously received services.

Veterans who are seeking health services for the first time have the longer wait, according to the audit: 1,151 veterans who were seeking services as of May 15 at the Ann Arbor V.A. had been on a waiting list for 61-90 days; 1,093 veterans had been waiting between 31 and 60 days; and 1,351 veterans have waited 15-30 days.

The agency’s stated goal nationwide is to give patients an appointment within 14 days.

Lee Armstrong, executive director of the Lucas County Veterans Service Commission, said in a recent interview that “it’s going to take months or years,” to fix the problems at the V.A.

“The sheer number of people; now you have people coming back maimed, suffering from post traumatic stress disorder — the structure doesn’t work anymore — it’s overburdened,” Mr. Armstrong said. “You need more than one director; you need regional directors.”

The commission provides emergency financial and supportive assistance, as well as benefit advocacy, to veterans of Lucas County.

Contact Federico Martinez at: fmartinez@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.



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