Audit: More than 57,000 nationwide awaiting initial VA visits, 8,500 in Florida

WASHINGTON - More than 57,000 patients nationwide are still waiting for initial medical appointments at VA hospitals and clinics 90 days or more after requesting them, the Veterans Affairs Department said Monday.

An additional 64,000 who enrolled in the VA health care system over the past 10 years have never had appointments.

An audit of 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics found that the agency's complicated appointment process created confusion among scheduling clerks and supervisors, the department said.

The audit said a 14-day goal for seeing first-time patients was unattainable given the growing demand among veterans for health care and poor planning. The VA has since abandoned that goal.

The audit said 13 percent of VA schedulers reported supervisors telling them to falsify appointment dates to make waiting times appear shorter.

In Florida, more than 8,500 new patients are still waiting for initial medical appointments at six VA hospitals and clinics.

The audit released Monday says the longest wait list at the Gainesville facility. Additionally, more than 5,000 who enrolled in the VA health care system over the past 10 years have never had appointments.

The audit of 731 VA hospitals and outpatient clinics nationally found that a complicated appointment process created confusion among scheduling clerks. The audit says a 14-day goal for seeing first-time patients was unattainable given the growing demand among veterans for health care and poor planning. The VA later abandoned that goal.

Florida officials have filed a lawsuit seeking access to facilities to investigate allegations.

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