News Releases

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) sent a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Eric Shinseki demanding an end to disgraceful scheduling practices at VA medical facilities that directly lead to the denial of care to veterans. This letter comes after an internal VA memo indicated that clinics were using inappropriate scheduling practices such as denying care to patients who did not check into scheduled appointments 15 minutes early.  Murray demanded that Secretary Shinseki take immediate action to correct this issue and improve care for veterans.

“Veterans showed up on time to sacrifice when and where their country told them to, and now the VA is denying them the care they have earned if they do not show up fifteen minutes early for an appointment,” Senator Murray wrote in the letter. I want your personal assurances that these unacceptable scheduling practices will stop immediately, and I want to hear that all 23 Veterans Integrated Service Networks have stopped this disgraceful and disrespectful practice of playing games with veterans’ access to care.” 

The full text of the letter appears below:

The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Office of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue NW Room 1000
Washington, DC 20420

Dear Secretary Shinseki:

I am writing to you with serious concern about an internal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) memorandum indicating that “gaming strategies” are used at VA facilities to improve internal scoring measures at the expense of veterans seeking VA health care.  This seems to be yet another instance of a VA culture that rewards checking the box and penalizes the veteran who does not know how to play procedural games and maneuver through your bureaucratic red tape.

Veterans showed up on time to sacrifice when and where their country told them to, and now the VA is denying them the care they have earned if they do not show up fifteen minutes early for an appointment.  I want your personal assurances that these unacceptable scheduling practices will stop immediately, and I want to hear that all 23 Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) have stopped this disgraceful and disrespectful practice of playing games with veterans’ access to care.

The internal memo sent by VA Deputy Under Secretary for Health Operations and Management William Schoenhard on April 26th portrays numerous “improper scheduling techniques.”  It describes VA medical centers cancelling appointments for VA patients if they do not check in ten or fifteen minutes prior to their appointments.  It also describes veterans being forced to forgo specific time slots for appointments in favor of block appointments, in which numerous patients are scheduled for identical blocks of time which may last several hours.  These are only a few of the underhanded scheduling practices mentioned in the memo to improve a VA medical center’s “missed opportunity” score by diminishing the quality of service provided to the veteran.

These practices lead directly to veterans not receiving the health care they have earned and puts their health at risk.  Hurting our veterans and putting their health care at risk for a better score is despicable.  Providing health care and improving the health of veterans is the highest goal of the VA, and if VA bureaucrats and hospital administrators do not understand this, I want to hear what steps you will take to ensure this standard is maintained.  Veterans have earned their VA health care through honorable service on our behalf.  They should never have to face a bureaucracy that is more intent on boosting its own internal ratings than on providing the highest quality of health care and customer service.  I look forward to hearing from you on how the VA has eliminated these improper scheduling practices and improve care for our veterans.