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The Brief: June 10, 2014

The results of a new audit of the Department of Veterans Affairs shed light on the root causes of the agency's wait time scandal while at the same time showing the scope of the problems is nationwide.

Veterans salute during the Pledge of Allegiance at the 112th annual VFW Convention in San Antonio on August 29, 2011.

The Big Conversation

The results of a new audit of the Department of Veterans Affairs shed light on the root causes of the agency's wait time scandal while also showing the scope of the problem is nationwide. The numbers themselves are staggering: 57,436 new patients were waiting three months or more for an appointment while about 64,000 established patients had not had care for a decade.

The New York Times' Richard Oppel Jr. wrote that "the report seemed to confirm what many whistle-blowers had been saying, but which the department denied: that the goal of trying to schedule patients within 14 days had created perverse incentives for administrators because their job performance reviews were partly tied to how many patients were seen within that two-week window."

The result was "that in 76 percent of the department’s hospitals and clinics, there had been at least one instance of manipulated data on patient wait times, in many cases to hide delays in providing care. The audit also found that 13 percent of patient schedulers said that they had been instructed by 'supervisors or others' to enter false information related to how long veterans had to wait for appointments."

The San Antonio Express-News' Sig Christenson broke down the numbers on Texas VA clinics and found wide variations in wait times across the state. "An established patient in Houston waited less than 48 hours for a primary care appointment, while one seeking specialty care in San Antonio could see a doctor in a single day — the best in the Lone Star State. New patients had a harder time of it, with those at the Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System waiting longer for a primary care appointment than anywhere else in Texas, an average of 85 days. It was worse for specialty care patients at clinics in Harlingen and McAllen, where the wait was 145 days — the longest in the nation, the VA said."

The Day Ahead

•    The Texas Lottery Commission meets at 8:45 a.m. in Austin to consider applications for the Charitable Bingo Operations director position.

•    The Texas Racing Commission meets at 10:30 a.m. in Austin to consider new rules authorizing historical racing.

Today in the Trib

Uber, Lyft Rolling Forward, but Uncertainty Lingers: "Uber and Lyft are now offering their tech-savvy transportation services in Austin, Corpus Christi, Houston, San Antonio and the Dallas area. But statements from officials in those cities say the company's drivers are technically violating local laws."

Analysis: Will Some Split Votes? Some Think So: "Some analysts think Leticia Van de Putte is the Democrat most likely to win a statewide race in November. For that to happen, she would have to find voters willing to switch from Republican Greg Abbott in the first race to her in the second."

Texas Workers' Comp Commissioner Resigns: "Texas Workers' Compensation Commissioner Rod Bordelon has announced his resignation. Bordelon is stepping down at time when workers are losing more and more major cases against insurers."


Supreme Court: Texas can withhold drug source name, The Associated Press

Keller trustee refuses to resign in face of protests, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

State officials aim to increase Latinas' role in politics, San Antonio Express-News

What Battleground Texas creator says Republicans have to worry about, Austin American-Statesman

Immigrant surge tests Obama's policy on slowing deportations, The Hill

For Western Oil Companies, Expanding in Russia Is a Dance Around Sanctions, The New York Times

Hillary Clinton's 'Hard Choices': Everything but the book, Politico

Quote to Note

“We understand we're on the Texas team, but we also know how to throw a chancla (sandal) when we need to.”

Leticia Van de Putte, Democratic state senator and lieutenant governor candidate, on what Latinas bring to the political conversation

Today in TribTalk

It's time to reform Texas' drug laws, by Ana Yáñez-Correa: "It’s time to adjust drug sentences in Texas to better match the severity of the crimes and to maximize taxpayers’ bang for their buck."

The truth about open carry, by CJ Grisham: "When I started Open Carry Texas, I never realized how difficult this fight would be — or the kind of opposition we would face from so-called defenders of the Second Amendment."

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    The Texas Tribune Festival runs from Sept. 19-21 at the University of Texas at Austin. Tickets are on sale now.

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