New VA Secretary Seeks Independent Review of Scheduling Practices

By Dow Jones Business News, 

By Ben Kesling

The Department of Veterans Affairs will launch an independent review of its scheduling practices beginning in the fall, the VA announced Friday.

In one of his first major announcements as VA secretary, Robert McDonald said the Joint Commission, the largest health care accrediting body in the country, will a make a sweeping, independent review of the VA's scheduling practices.

"It is important that our scheduling practices be reviewed by a respected, independent source to help restore trust in our system," Mr. McDonald said in a statement.

In April, the first revelations of VA employees tampering with authorized scheduling procedures and falsifying wait time data led to a series of reviews and investigations that uncovered systemic problems in the VA. The subsequent scandal led to the resignation of a number of top-level VA employees including then-Secretary Eric Shinseki. Earlier this week, President Barack Obama signed into law a more than $16 billion measure to improve veteran access to health care and jump start reform at the VA.

Mr. McDonald, former CEO of Procter & Gamble Co. from 2009 to 2013, announced the scheduling review at an event in Phoenix. News of the scandal originated at the Phoenix VA when a former department doctor publicly criticized the hospital's scheduling practices.

The announcement comes at the beginning of Mr. McDonald's first major trip since being confirmed as secretary in late July, and will include addressing the national convention of the Disabled American Veterans, one of the biggest veterans advocacy groups in the country.

The new secretary has said he would work to improve communications at the massive department and said Friday that all VA medical center directors are required to now notify one of Mr. McDonald's top lieutenants if access or quality standards fall short. He has also said all VA health care and benefits facilities must hold town hall-style events by October to allow veterans at the ground level to voice their complaints.

The Joint Commission, which Mr. McDonald has tasked with reviewing scheduling processes, accredits and certifies more than 20,500 health-care entities in the U.S., including hospitals and laboratories. The Joint Commission wasn't immediately available to comment.

Write to Ben Kesling at

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