Military.com: VA Silent on Exec Bonuses for Manipulated Data
I find this incredibly troubling:
A year after testifying that some executives received bonuses by manipulating appointment data for veterans needing mental health care, a former Department of Veterans Affairs hospital administrator said officials have avoided the issue “like the plague.”
“They avoid it with a 10-foot pole,” Nicholas Tolentino told Military.com in a telephone interview Monday.
Last April, Tolentino, a former mental health administrator at the Manchester VA Medical Center in New Hampshire, told lawmakers that VA hospital officials across the country talked to each other to find workarounds to meet VA appointment goals. The overriding objective, “from top management on down, was to meet our numbers” and make it appear as if the VA was seeing as many veterans as possible, he said.
Meeting those goals was linked to bonuses for executive career employees, he said. This created “a perverse administrative incentive” for officials to exploit loopholes to meet manufactured goals without providing the services.
“The upshot of these all too widespread practices is that meeting a performance target, rather than meeting the needs of the veteran, becomes the overriding priority in providing care,” he testified.
Tolentino told the Senate that VA officials from across the country discussed ways to get around the system.
“That’s one of the reasons I left,” he said. “Not only because of the fraud. They were gaming the entire system and profiting off it. I left before I got a bonus. I didn’t feel right taking [one].”
Here's my related anecdote on the issue.... About 5 years ago, within weeks of getting out of the military, I woke up one day and could barely move. I knew what it was, it was herniated discs. I also knew I needed to go to the VA immediately. So, I trudged down there and signed up for VA. It took no time at all. I even got to see a doctor within 2 hours of arriving, which might not sound good, but I didn't have an appointment at all. The doctor told me "You are going to need an emergency MRI."
So a day later the VA calls to set that up. The lady told me I could not make an appointment for one yet, because "we are completely filled up for the next 30 days. But, if you call next week and make an appointment, we can schedule you 29 days from then." So, what they were doing was trying to avoid the 30 day window by putting the onus back on me to wait to schedule the appointment. That way, even though it was 36 days total, they could count it from when I called the second time.
Luckily I subsequently moved from DC to Indianapolis. Here I can virtually walk in unannounced and have an appointment that day. Sometimes I have to wait, but they don't game the system here at all. As I read this article, I couldn't help but wonder if my waiting a week to schedule something so that they could code it as under 30 days resulted in someone getting a bonus.