Over the past year, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been a fixture in national news for the controversies surrounding the extremely long wait times veterans have experienced for benefits and treatment, and the efforts VA officials took to cover up those issues. Although the federal government has put numerous programs in place since then to ensure the VA resolves these problems, one whistleblower says the San Antonio VA is still covering up wait time data at its location.
That whistleblower, Phillip Brian Turner, is an employee at San Antonio’s VA North Central Federal Clinic. He became aware of lingering issues at the clinic in January, when he got a call from a veteran seeking an appointment for the following day with his doctor. Turner was unable to find an opening within 35 business days, which meant the earliest opening would have been late February. Turner made the appointment, and because it was more than 30 days away, the veteran was eligible to seek private care. However, sometime after Turner scheduled the appointment, one of the clinic’s lead clerks went into the system to reschedule it once again for February 24, but this time with a listed wait time of zero days.
Turner, who alerted authorities to the presence of data manipulation at VA clinics in both San Antonio and Austin last year, says that it’s the exact same problem the clinic had in years past. He also claims that while the federal government has focused on turning around the culture of the VA nationwide, there has been little difference experienced in San Antonio so far.
Officials at the San Antonio VA deny Turner’s latest charges, but lawmakers and various veteran advocacy groups have also said the VA has not taken appropriate actions to get rid of data manipulation in an efficient manner.
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