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New details shed light on why El Paso veterans wait so long to see a doctor

A federal investigation requested by El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke shows there is a specific reason why El Paso veterans have had to wait so long to see a doctor.

After speaking with employees and their supervisors, the Department of Veteran Affairs and Inspector General found the VA clinic staff in El Paso consistently entered false information into the record books. The report released Tuesday states clinic staff documented patients as being given a doctor’s appointment on a date they asked for, or a “desired date,” which was not true. This meant collected data failed to show veterans were having difficulties booking an appointment in a timely manner.

The investigation also shows clinic staff allowed the insurance companies to set the date of the appointment, not the veteran. The report states “…schedulers were incorrectly capturing veterans’ desired dates when scheduling appointments. Most of the clerks interviewed negotiated with veterans for a date based on provider availability, rather than first asking a veteran for the date he/she desired to be seen-in violation of Veterans Health Administration Scheduling Directive 2010-027”.

The Acting Director of the El Paso VA Health Care Systems of the told ABC-7, “We’re keeping our staff trained and we want to assure veterans that were are here to accommodate them.” Gail Graham also said, “We are really blessed that we have had an increase in enrollment over the last decade.”

The investigation started after Congressman Beto O’Rourke wanted the FBI to look into the possibility of the manipulation of patient wait times at the Veterans Affairs Health Care System (VAHCS) El Paso. The investigation did not find intentional wrongdoing, but it did find identify policy violations when scheduling appointments.

In June 2014, O’ Rourke released results of a survey of local veterans that was initiated by his office. The survey O’Rourke commissioned found more than 36 percent of veterans who tried to schedule a mental health appointment said they were unable to get one. It also found an average of 71 days between the request and an actual appointment and 77 percent of those requesting an appointment indicated they waited more than 14 days. O’Rourke said the results proved that the troubled Veteran’s Administration cannot be trusted.

Later that year, a federal audit report showed that centers in Amarillo, El Paso and Dallas ranked in the top 10 longest waits for new patients seeking mental health care, this according to a report in the Austin American-Statesman.

Last November,O’Rourke introduced a new Veterans Affairs pilot program aimed to ensure veterans in need of medical care are seen quickly by the best available provider in the region. The VA will prioritize service or combat-connected conditions like post traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries within the VA, allowing them to concentrate on those conditions.As for Tuesday’s report, Congressman O’ Rourke could not be reached for comment.

To read the full report, visit

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