A Department of Veterans Affairs review identified 2,078 veterans nationally who waited at least two months in fiscal 2010 and 2011 for tests that found gastrointestinal cancers, a number the agency did not disclose to Congress after it decided almost all were not seriously harmed by delays.
The figure was provided to the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee Monday and came after reports by the Tampa Bay Times that the VA had counted such cases but failed to tell Congress.
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Pensacola, chairman of the committee, said the VA should have provided the numbers even if it insists none of the veterans were harmed.
The disclosure comes as Miller is pressing the agency to explain inaccurate and incomplete information provided to Congress in an April VA "fact sheet" detailing its national review of consultation delays.
The fact sheet said 76 veterans had been seriously harmed by delays in diagnosing GI cancers and that 23 of these patients died. But 2,000 additional cases were not reported to Congress.
The Times also reported last week that the fact sheet inaccurately told Congress that its review of delays treating GI cancers went back to 1999. In fact, the review was just for fiscal years 2010 and 2011.
"Please describe in detail the steps you are taking to hold the VA Central Office officials responsible for what appears to be an attempt to mislead Congress and the public," Miller said in a letter sent this week to new VA Secretary Robert McDonald.
VA officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday. In the release to the committee Monday, the VA indicated the April fact sheet had been released "prematurely" before numbers were validated.
Miller said in a statement Tuesday that the omissions in the VA April fact sheet are "further proof that VA's statistics — and certain department employees — simply cannot be trusted."
Monday's disclosure also noted that 955,601 veterans nationally had been waiting 90 days or longer for a consultation in all medical specialties at the VA as of September 2012. The VA said some of these cases involve routine appointments scheduled months in advance, so not all reflect a problem involving timely medical care.
The agency told Congress it had reduced the figure to 180,629 by January 2014.
Contact William R. Levesque at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3432.