Don't play games with our veterans

I had a great Fourth of July spending time at home with family and friends. I hope you all enjoyed your holiday!

This is a time of year where we especially recognize the service and sacrifice of our veterans, and that's why I'm writing today. It has come to my attention that some VA centers are are using what are called "gaming strategies" to improve their statistics at the expense of the very people for whom they are supposed to be caring.


An internal VA memo from April 26th shows how it works: VA medical centers will cancel appointments for patients if they do not check in ten or fifteen minutes prior to their appointment. The VA center will also force veterans to forgo certain time slots for appointments, and instead book several patients for identical time slots that usually lasts several hours.

These are only a few of the methods used by VA bureaucrats to improve their internal scores, but the final effect is the same: They all result in healthcare being delayed or denied to our veterans.

I don't need to tell you that sacrificing our veterans' healthcare in favor of better statistics is despicable. As a daughter of a disabled World War II veteran, it is especially offensive to me. I can't bear the thought of someone penalizing our nation's heroes for not understanding the VA's procedural games.

That's why I wrote to Secretary of Veterans' Affairs Eric Shinseki last week about this issue. I asked for his personal assurance that these gaming strategies come to an immediate halt. I asked that all 23 Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) stop any scheduling methods that put internal scores over the health and well-being of our veterans. And I asked that he change the current VA culture that rewards checking a box over providing accessible, high quality care to those who have served our country.

 I will continue to monitor the situation, and keep you updated.

Thank you for your time,

Senator Patty Murray

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