Evidence of the Department of Veterans Affairs record-keeping scandal doesn’t get any more obvious than this: VA records show that an ex-Marine who died while waiting for care at a Minneapolis clinic later rescheduled his appointment from the grave.
The issue, brought to light this week in a USA Today report, prompted members of the Minnesota congressional delegation to call on the VA inspector general and the Justice Department to investigate the matter.
“It is unacceptable for veterans to have their care delayed, and to have those delays covered up, and it is essential that we get to the bottom of what happened at VA facilities,” Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said in a statement, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Jordan Buisman left the Marine Corps because of complications with epilepsy. The 25-year-old veteran requested a neurology appointment on Oct. 12, 2012, and the VA sent him a letter saying it could see him 70 days later.
Buisman didn’t make it that long. He died 24 days before the appointment. Curiously, VA records show that he canceled and rescheduled the date four days after his death.
Faking patient cancellations was one of many schemes that the VA used to hide extensive treatment delays. Buisman’s case appears to fall into that category.
After details of the scheduling scandal emerged, President Obama replaced the VA secretary, and the agency has taken a number of corrective actions, including contacting all veterans who were stuck on unofficial wait lists to schedule appointments, posting twice-monthly online updates on wait times, hiring more medical professionals to help meet demand and taking steps to fire officials who were responsible for the records manipulation.
The VA said Wednesday that its Minneapolis hospital is now scheduling 92 percent of its appointments within 30 days and that the clinic requested an inspector general investigation into the former Marine’s case.
“The Minneapolis VA Medical Center continues their commitment to Veterans in providing high quality health care for Veterans and takes any allegations about patient care or employee misconduct very seriously,” the agency said in a statement, adding that “those involved in any inappropriate activities will be held accountable.”
The hospital has also made efforts to better accomodate appointment requesters, including adding appointment slots and Saturday clinics, recruiting for additional clinical staff and using private-sector care, the agency said.