REPORT: Phoenix VA continues to struggle with long wait times for medical care

Posted at 8:54 PM, Jan 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-12 13:48:42-05

Just as President-elect Donald Trump makes his nomination for Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs, a new federal report not only validates deeper problems with Phoenix veteran’s care in 2015 — but it also shows the problems are ongoing today.

According to the Office of Special Council, on an average day 1,100 veterans are waiting longer than 30 days to see a doctor. Psychotherapy patients wait an average of 37 days -- and that's an improvement from a 75-day wait in 2015.

The report also revealed that 59 veterans whose appointments were canceled last year never rescheduled them and dozens of them could be suffering serious health problems as a result. For instance, one man with cardiovascular disease did die — it could’ve been prevented.

Their recommendations are:

  • Make sure all staff are trained with new directives developed last fall.
  • Review any areas of noncompliance.
  • Provide interim therapy to necessary patients.

However, VA administrators said all of that is being done.

The OSC report, which has been sent to the White House and Congress, comes from allegations made by whistleblower Kuauhtemoc Rodriguez who is the chief of the VA's Specialty Care Clinics in Phoenix. 

Not all of his claims were substantiated, and some of his numbers were found to be inaccurate by investigators. However, the basis of several of his allegations were found to be true, and he said no one should be celebrating just because the numbers weren’t as bad as he thought.

"These are people's fathers, their uncles, their brothers and they're dying and it’s not right," Rodriguez said.

He claims his computer at work has been investigated, he’s been harassed by superiors and passed up for promotions — all since speaking out.

"I wasn't willing to let my fellow veterans suffer like that. I made a stance and in a sense, I’ve ruined my career," he said.

On Thursday, he'll face an Administrative Investigations Board over allegations of harassment against him.

The VA is adamant one has nothing to do with the other and no individual is being investigated. Rodriguez is part of a leadership group called into question.

"Bogus, the people that are supposedly accusing me are the people who, for the last year, have been harassing me," he said.

Read the Phoenix VA email statement below:

“In regard to a whistleblower being interviewed during this process, protecting whistleblowers is a priority for VA. The PVAHCS leadership respects the role and purpose of whistleblowers, and values the information they provide as opportunities to improve the organization. The whistleblower protection act of 1989 prohibits reprisal, and the current PVAHCS leadership will not allow any whistleblower to be retaliated against. There are no current administrative or disciplinary actions based on the OSC report or any disclosures associated with it.”