June 17, 2014
Richard J. Griffin
Acting Inspector General
VA Office of Inspector General
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Dear Acting Inspector General Griffin,
As I am sure you are aware, Shea Wilkes, a whistleblower and licensed clinical social worker at the Overton Brooks Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Shreveport, LA, has come forward with specific allegations that Overton Brooks manipulates veteran wait time data. Mr. Wilkes claims there is a secret list with over 600 patients at Overton Brooks who have not been treated and are also not being counted in any Veterans Health Administration (VHA) audit. I request that you launch a full review about these claims immediately.
Mr. Wilkes has bravely come forward, risking his own job security, to bring these allegations to light. It has come to my attention that he has sent you a copy of this secret list, and I urge you to immediately and thoroughly investigate these allegations at Overton Brooks.
The VHA uses an Electronic Wait List (EWL) for all the scheduling of care for its patients. There should be absolutely no other form of wait list used by VA administrators. Mr. Wilkes alleges, however, that the administrators and staff at Overton Brooks blatantly disregarded this mandate, maintaining a "secret" wait list and manipulating the EWL in the following other ways:
* In addition to maintaining this secret list, he claims schedulers at Overton Brooks have been instructed in the use of "gaming strategies" to manipulate reported wait times. He asserts this includes holding appointments without scheduling until capacity opens or entering into the system that the patient requested the out-of-date appointment.
* He also claims existing mental health patients are often provided appointments to therapy in large groups. Such an appointment is counted as being scheduled for an appointment to a primary care provider.
Additionally, if certain wait time goals are not met, VA administrators don't receive bonuses and auditors from the VHA will descend on the facility. So clearly they have plenty of incentive to participate in this egregious activity.
Given the systematic failures of the VA across this country, as evidenced in your own multiple OIG reports, I demand a full investigation into these startling allegations. No veteran of this country should be put on any secret waiting list so a VA bureaucrat can receive a bonus. I trust you will use all resources available to your office to launch a full investigation. Please respond by June 27, 2014, with a detailed plan on how your office will handle these allegations. Veterans of North Louisiana are counting on you.