12 OYS: Charlie Norwood VA leaders call federal audit misleading

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News 12 at 6 o'clock / June 19, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Augusta VA leaders are challenging a federal audit that is reporting scheduling issues and more than a decade long wait for appointments for some 130 newly registered veterans.

"That's misleading. That's a report that shows people came in and registered with the VA. Anybody that needed an appointment
did not wait ten years," said media spokesperson Pete Scovill.

He said all vets on that list had either never scheduled an appointment, and in some cases the VA tried to contact them or they moved. "They may have canceled their appointment. They may not have been rescheduled," said Scovill.

He said what is also misleading is why the VA is being flagged for further review because of scheduling and computer system practices. Scovill said it involves internal training with schedulers and not scheduling of patients.

"We are completing patient requests for appointments within fourteen days," said Scovill. An improvement over last year when we uncovered a backlog of over 4,000 patients waiting on cancer screenings. A similar problem was exposed at the VA in Phoenix, Arizona. The feds found a secret waiting list covering up long wait times in scheduling and appointments.

We asked Scovill to go on the record that there are no secret waiting lists like those in Phoenix. "I can tell you on the record that the director is confident that we do not have hidden lists, " said Scovill.

Last week Augusta VA released an open letter to News 12, citing some of what it calls significant improvements in care, as well as areas like specialty care that still require some work. So why did it take the VA nearly a week to respond to the audit findings?

"Five days is not a long time in the grand scheme of things. When you think of how much is at stake. How important it was that we got the message correct," said Scovill.

Augusta VA officials say right now over 90% of veterans are getting appointments within a month of their desired dates.