FBI Joins Investigation Into VA Wait Times
Another day, another development on the Department of Veterans Affairs wait-list scandal.
A law enforcement official told The Washington Post that -- at the request of the Justice Department -- the FBI is reviewing VA records to see if officials lied about wait times for medical care to receive a bonus.
The decision comes after Richard Griffin, the VA's acting inspector general, told members of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee that it was investigating 69 VA facilities -- not including Phoenix -- for allegations including criminal wrongdoing.
Griffin added that his office is working with DOJ, but it remains to be seen whether the Justice Department thinks that altering the wait times for veterans to receive care rises to the level of a criminal prosecution.
''Once someone loses his job or gets criminally charged for doing this, it will no longer be a game. And that will be the shot heard around the system,'' he said.
And bad news for the VA has been piling up. An internal audit released Monday found that approximately 57,000 veterans had been waiting 90 days or more for an appointment, and that more than 63,000 veterans enrolled in VA care never had an appointment. That follows an interim report last month, which found that 1,700 veterans were kept off waiting lists at the VA's Phoenix facility. The report led to Eric Shinseki's resignation as VA secretary.
Lawmakers from both parties have increasingly called for a criminal investigation into whether VA officials potentially committed fraud by lying about wait times so they could meet performance measures that would--in turn--get them a bonus.
"When you've gone out there and on purpose mislead, knowing that you would get a financial bonus if you did that—which is exactly what's happened -- is that fraud? I think that is," Tennessee Republican Rep. Phil Roe said.
Philip Matkovsky, assistant deputy undersecretary for health for administrative operations, admitted Monday evening that "tying rewards and incentives … to an activity is a mistake."
Since the start of the scandal, the VA has suspended a requirement that veterans receive an appointment within 14 days of making a request, with critics arguing that--while well-intentioned--it was unrealistic.
The FBI was unable to immediately respond to request for comment.