Preliminary findings to distance North Texas VA from national scandal  

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by DAVID SCHECHTER

Bio | Email | Follow: @davidschechter

WFAA

Posted on May 31, 2014 at 12:00 AM

Updated Monday, Jun 2 at 8:12 AM

DALLAS -- Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki stepped down Friday in the wake of systemic problems with the health care for veterans, but the head of the North Texas VA said the local branch was cleared in the wait-time scandal.
 
The Veterans Administration in North Texas confirmed, as part of a national audit into manipulated waiting lists, a team from Washington spent two weeks investigating scheduling operations here.

“What I’m proud to say is when the group exited with us, they did say they found no evidence that anyone was intentionally manipulating wait-time data,” said North Texas VA Director Jeff Milligan.

Still, over the past two years, WFAA has uncovered a number of complaints that sub-standard care at the Dallas hospital actually put lives at risk. Milligan denies that charge.

“I think we do an excellent job,” he said.

But veterans have described to News 8 botched surgeries and poor-to-nonexistent follow-up care. Some sick vets say they drove for hours to an appointment in Dallas, only to have to sit and wait for several more hours.

Before he stepped down, Secretary Eric Shinseki ordered VA hospitals across the country to reduce the amount of time vets wait to see a doctor. Milligan said he’s making progress.

“But we’re going to say to them, 'If you would like to be seen sooner, we will find a way to either bring you in and see you here at the VA, or will pay for you to be seen in the community,’" Milligan said. "So that’s what we’re going to be working very, very diligently on over the next three weeks. Three-to-four weeks.”

He said he does not expect Shinseki’s resignation to have a major impact on local operations.

“Well, we’ve got a solid plan in place to address our waiting lists, so we’re going to move forward with that," Milligan said. "So, on the ground here I think we’re going to just continue to move forward.”

The North Texas VA director said in the last two years, he’s brought in fresh leadership and, in the wake of this scandal, tasked high-level staff with improving access to care.

E-mail dschechter@wfaa.com

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