Veterans Affairs Rep: Data Issue Confined To Facility in Clarksburg

PARKERSBURG — The alleged intentional skewing of patient data at the Veterans Administration hospital in Clarksburg only affected that facility, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

Clinics elsewhere in the state were unaffected, Wesley Walls, public affairs officer for the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center, said. The patients were seen in the emergency department in Clarksburg, and the hospital there is the only VA facility in West Virginia with such a department, he said.

The Office of the Special Counsel reported recently that patient data was intentionally manipulated at the medical center, which reduced the reported wait times and the volume of patient visits.

A confidential whistleblower took the allegations to the counsel, which prompted an investigation by the Department of Veteran Affairs.

The Veterans Administration operates medical facilities and clinics in Beckley, Clarksburg, Huntington, Martinsburg, Lenore, Franklin, Gassaway, Parkersburg, Parsons, Petersburg, Princeton, Ronceverte, South Charleston and Westover.

Investigators from the Veterans Administration went to the medical center in Clarksburg Dec. 5-8, according to the administration’s investigation report.

The whistleblower alleged two former administrators directed the nursing staff in the emergency department to code patients to reduce the wait times and the number of patient visits, the report said.

The report states that at times during the last seven years, an administrator tried to influence the emergency department nursing staff through another administrator to place certain patients into two unofficial sub-emergency department clinics and to use codes in violation of Veterans Health Administration policies.

A patient care services administrator received a $3,400 performance award for fiscal 2012 because of the inaccurate data, the report said.

Unsubstantiated in the report were allegations that a nursing administrator for primary care for the last seven years directed emergency department nursing staff to code patients in violation of agency policy; a former administrator (the former administrative officer) received performance awards because of a reduction in wait times and emergency department patient visits; and emergency department administrators received performance awards.

Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., in March 2016 sent an inquiry to the Department of Veteran Affairs over the allegations made by the whistleblower. McKinley said Tuesday he will continue to monitor the situation.

“Ensuring we uphold the promises made to our veterans and they receive excellent care and service at the VA is our utmost concern.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen examples around the country where the VA has failed our veterans,” McKinley said on Tuesday.

“We’re hopeful the investigation of practices regarding wait times and patient visits at the Clarksburg VA gets to the bottom of the situation so the VA can fix any problems and ensure our veterans get the care they deserve.”

The VA Medical Center on Monday issued a statement saying the practices were immediately discontinued and that the hospital was determining how to recoup lost payments.

The Office of the Special Counsel in a press release said the 602 improperly coded veterans were charged an incorrect co-payment, resulting in lost revenue of $21,070 for the clinic.