(Photo: REUTERS/Gary Cameron)
Approximately 121,000 American veterans have either been forced to wait months for a medical appointment or receive none at all, reported an audit of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Released Monday, the VA audit found that approximately 57,000 veterans have waited up to three months to have a medical appointment and an additional 64,000 veterans signed up for the VA's health care in the past 10 years have never been seen by a doctor.
The audit was noted by Matthew Daly of the Associated Press as being the "first nationwide look at the VA network in the uproar that began with reports two months ago of patients dying while awaiting appointments and of cover-ups at the Phoenix VA center."
"Examining 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics, the audit found long wait times across the country for patients seeking their first appointments with both primary care doctors and specialists," reported Daly.
"The audit is the third in a series of reports in the past month into long wait times and falsified records at VA facilities nationwide."
Other findings of the audit included 13 percent of schedulers reporting that their superiors told them to falsify reports to make waiting times appear shorter than in reality.
"The internal audit comes amid a growing scandal for the Veterans Affairs Department, following claims that up to 40 veterans may have died while awaiting treatment at a VA hospital in Phoenix, Arizona," noted Sky News.
"The VA's internal audit, released on Monday, said the agency's goal of seeing first-time patients within a 14-day period was unattainable given a combination of poor planning and a growing demand among veterans seeking health care."
The results of the audit come a couple weeks after VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced his resignation, adding to the headlines over the scandal.
In a statement released last week, acting VA Secretary Sloan D. Gibson said that "immediate actions" will be taken to fix the problem.
"As the President said last week, we must work together to fix the unacceptable, systemic problems in accessing VA healthcare," said Gibson.
"I believe that trust is the foundation for everything we do - VA must be an organization built on transparency and accountability."
Gibson also spoke of hiring additional staff at facilities, removing leadership at the Phoenix VA hospital, and removing the 14-day scheduling goal in employee performance contracts "to eliminate any incentives to engage in inappropriate behavior."
"We will need the support of all our stakeholders to continue to improve the department. I look forward to working with them all to better serve our Veterans," said Gibson.