The findings emerged after President Barack Obama met with acting
Veterans Secretary Sloan Gibson and the White House official
assigned to investigate the agency, Rob Nabors.
Widespread evidence of delays in military veterans getting
healthcare at the VA's facilities prompted Obama to accept the
resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki late in May. He has yet to
nominate a new secretary.
The White House review, which was conducted by Nabors, said the
agency's 14-day scheduling standard for new patients to receive care
is arbitrary, ill-defined and misunderstood.
Nabors found that while the VA generally provides high quality
healthcare once patients get in the door, "it is clear that there
are significant and chronic systemic failures that must be addressed
by the leadership at VA."
Since the 14-day standard was included as a measure in employee
performance contracts, it may have led to "inappropriate actions" by
officials to meet the goal, the review found. The 14-day scheduling
goal has now been removed from performance contracts.
"We can and must solve these problems as we work to earn back the
trust of veterans," Gibson said in a statement.
The review was particularly critical in discussing the Veterans
Health Administration, which manages the VA medical structure.
This part of the VA is marked by a lack of responsiveness and an
inability to effectively manage or communicate to employees or
veterans, and needs to be restructured and reformed, the review
"A corrosive culture has led to personnel problems across the
department that are seriously impacting morale, and by extension,
the timeliness of healthcare," the report found. It cited distrust
between some VA employees, a history of retaliation toward employees
who raise concerns, and a lack of accountability across the board.
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Obama has asked Nabors to remain on assignment at the VA temporarily
to help the department.
The White House said a series of reforms have been started to ease
the pressure with 135,000 veterans contacted, 182,000 additional
appointments scheduled and more schedulers trained to handle the
The VA oversees some 1,700 hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and
other facilities, making it the largest U.S. healthcare
The review found the VA relies on a 1985 electronic health records
system that predates the Internet, and cited a need for more
doctors, nurses and other health professionals. The agency plans to
bring in a new system in the coming year.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Sandra Maler and Richard
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