By Jason Allen

DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – A preliminary report from the Office of the Inspector General uses the North Texas VA Health Care System as just one example of what investigator say is a nationwide problem.

The inspector general’s report Wednesday confirmed significant delays in patient care for veterans in Phoenix. It also noted that the problems have existed at the VA, for almost a decade.

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When the I-Team first asked local officials about delays in 2012, the response was that the problems were isolated. Patients with kidney and heart issues were waiting months for appointments, even when they needed it immediately.

The local sites took steps to fix the problems, but some of the things that happened here, are the same things noted in this new report.

The OIG was specifically looking into the VA in Phoenix. It found 1,700 veterans not on any official waiting list, and still needing care. Additionally, many veterans on a list were left waiting for months and records didn’t necessarily reflect that.

Schedulers had a “scheme,” of finding an open appointment, then just listing that as the veteran’s desired appointment date. That was routine in North Texas. In fact, the report found it happened in 100 percent of some specialty appointments.

The North Texas VA is one of 42 facilities investigators are currently looking into.

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Director Jeff Milligan responded Wednesday to the inclusion of the North Texas facilities in the report, with the following statement:

“VA North Texas is continuously working to identify areas of opportunity and implement improvements.  A 2012 Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation identified consult issues with vascular access ports being installed for dialysis care and the use of holter monitors.  This investigation did not identify any harm to patients.  VA North Texas provided OIG with the improvement plans and OIG closed the investigation.

As recommended by the recent Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Scheduling Audit Team during their recent exit with my team, VA North Texas will provide refresher training to all schedulers and that has begun. If any employee is found to have intentionally manipulated wait times, they will be dealt with quickly, decisively and referred to the IG.”

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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