WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, today responded to two new Office of Inspector General (IG) reports regarding unused appointments in VA and VA procedures for scheduling appointments and maintaining wait lists. Senator Akaka requested the reports as part of continuing oversight of these issues, and based on information received by the Committee.
"The fact that we continue to see a trend of flawed or inefficient scheduling practices being used by VA is troubling. I have led the fight to provide full funding for VA but VA must be as efficient and accurate as possible in order to avoid waste and mismanagement, especially in these times of economic difficulty," said Akaka.
According to information provided by IG, approximately 4.9 million appointments, 18% of all VHA appointments, were unused during Fiscal Year 2008. By implementing IG recommended procedures to fill appointments before they go unused, conservative estimates suggest that VHA could save at least $76 million annually and $380 million over five years.
"VA can save a lot of money by taking simple steps to reduce the number of unused health care appointments. VA must act quickly to implement the recommendations made by the Inspector General," said Akaka.
IG also reported that in the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System, scheduling continues to be done inaccurately, resulting in distorted data being reported. By placing new patients in "non-count" clinics, statistics on how long veterans wait for their initial appointments can be skewed. VA's data collection does not track those placed in these clinics, which are typically used for routine procedures such as checking blood pressure. VA, Congress, and others rely on this data to make informed decisions about staffing and funding levels.