In Philly visit, new VA leader pledges to ‘earn back’ trust

    Listen

    In the wake of the scandal over long wait times and the cover-up of delays in treatment, the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald visited West Philadelphia to tour the medical center on Woodland Avenue.

     

    “Nationally, we know that our trust has been compromised,” McDonald said. “We will earn it back.”

    Earlier this year, allegations surfaced that some VA sites had falsified wait times.

    The agency has faced complaints for years that veterans are forced to wait too long to get medical care, and the Obama administration was under pressure to improve access for patients.

    Starting this month, the Joint Commission, a health care-accrediting body, will conduct an independent review of scheduling practices at every VA health center around the country.

    “We will not tolerate lying cheating, stealing, or those people who do it,” McDonald said.

    He said, so far, 30 VA employees face disciplinary actions. The controversy includes claims of data manipulation.

    Philadelphia medical center spokeswoman Jennifer Askey declined to say if any local employees are in hot water.

    “There are only allegations,” she said.

    The agency is waiting for a report from the VA’s inspector general, she said.

    To fix scheduling and access problems, the agency is working to define what is an appropriate wait time.

    “Benchmarking outside organizations, understanding what the wait times are all over the country and seeing if we can provide better care,” McDonald said of the agenda.

    Without offering specifics, McDonald said wait times in the Philadelphia region are generally good, but the delay to see an audiologist is still too long.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.