Audit: Ala. vets health center faked wait times

Courtesy: www.birmingham.va.gov
Courtesy: www.birmingham.va.gov

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – A federal audit being released Monday will show that a central Alabama veterans health care center falsified records to hide evidence of patients waiting too long to receive care, the center’s director told employees in an email.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported this weekend that Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System director James Talton disclosed the broad findings of the nationwide audit and his email said the Alabama facility is one of 84 named for unethical practices.

Alabama Republican U.S. Rep. Martha Roby said she was aware of the audit findings and that she met Friday with Talton and he said when he discovered the discrepancies, he informed the VA inspector general and fired the employees responsible.

Allegations about treatment delays of up to three months at Veterans Affairs hospitals and secret waiting lists across the country have surfaced over the past few weeks.

The disclosures have set off a furor in Washington, forcing the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki last week, and prompting Congress to consider legislation to make it easier for treatment of veterans outside the government-funded VA.

“I hear from area veterans everyday who experience difficulty dealing with the VA,” Roby said in a statement. “Their stories and this report confirm what we’ve suspected for some time about the pattern of neglect and mismanagement within the VA.

“It is disgusting and infuriating to know that the atrocious behavior we have heard about elsewhere has been happening right here in central Alabama.”

The central Alabama system, which includes facilities in Montgomery and Tuskegee, had the eighth longest average wait time out of 141 VA systems nationwide, the newspaper reported, citing recent data from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“More than anything we must find ways to fix the problems that have led to these outrageous wait times,” Roby said.

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