Tens of thousands more veterans than previously reported are forced to wait at least a month for medical appointments

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Tens of thousands more veterans than previously reported are forced to wait at least a month for medical appointments
Bob Brown, an 87-year-old World War II veteran from Perry Kan., speaks with U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, left, and U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, right, during their visit to the Colmery-O'Neil Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Friday, June 13, 2014, in Topeka, Kan. Some Kansas veterans can't get medical appointments at U.S. Veterans Affairs facilities and are having scheduled checkups canceled as the dates approach, the two members of the state's congressional delegation said after touring the in Topeka VA medical center. (AP Photo/John Hanna)
FILE - In this June 12, 2014 file photo, Charles Tipton, of Spiro, Okla., lies under a Trilogy Linear Accelerator as he waits for his radiation treatment to begin at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Oklahoma City. A top VA official told The Associated Press on Friday, June 13, that average wait times at many of the facilities are likely much shorter than what was shown by data released by Veterans Affairs officials earlier this week. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
FILE - In this June 12, 2014 file photo, Michael Storemski, right, of Harrah, Okla., talks with Dr. Christina Henson, left, following his treatment at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Oklahoma City, Thursday, June 12, 2014. A top VA official told The Associated Press on Friday, June 13, that average wait times at many of the facilities are likely much shorter than what was shown by data released by Veterans Affairs officials earlier this week. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
Randy Lazaro, right, of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, tries to help out Don Parker, second from left, and his World War II veteran father, Harley Parker, left, as they joined dozens of other veterans at a health care crisis center set up by the American Legion at the American Legion Post 1 hall, at a first-of-its-kind event for the nation's largest veterans group, Tuesday, June 10, 2014, in Phoenix. More than 57,000 new applicants have had to wait at least three months before their first appointments, while an additional 64,000 who enrolled for VA health care over the past decade have never been seen by a doctor, according to a VA audit released earlier this week. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
President Barack Obama listens to a reporter's question in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, May 30, 2014, where he made a statement following his meeting with Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki. The president said that Shinseki is resigning amid widespread troubles with veterans' health care. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki pauses as he speaks at a meeting of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, Friday, May 30, 2014, in Washington. President Barack Obama says he plans to have a "serious conversation" with Shinseki about whether he can stay in his job. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, May 30, 2014, following his meeting with Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki. The president said that Shinseki is resigning amid widespread troubles with veterans' health care. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki pauses while speaking at a meeting of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, Friday, May 30, 2014, in Washington. President Barack Obama says he plans to have a "serious conversation" with Shinseki about whether he can stay in his job. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama makes a statement in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, May 30, 2014, following his meeting with Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki. The president said that Shinseki is resigning amid widespread troubles with veterans' health care. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Lester Abele of Zanesville, Ohio, gives a thumbs up as Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki as he speaks at a meeting of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans in Washington, Friday, May 30, 2014. President Barack Obama says he plans to have a "serious conversation" with Shinseki about whether he can stay in his job. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki arrives to speak at a meeting of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans in Washington, Friday, May 30, 2014. Shinseki faces calls to resign from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress because of an escalating scandal about problems in the VA's nationwide health care system. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Travis Fugate, a member of the Kentucky National Guard who was blinded by an IED attack in Iraq, wipes his eyes as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 29, 2014, before the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations. The panel is examining inadequacies in the Veterans Administration's treatment of visually-impaired veterans. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki takes the stage before speaking at a meeting of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, Friday, May 30, 2014, in Washington. President Barack Obama says he plans to have a "serious conversation" with Shinseki about whether he can stay in his job. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki speaks at a meeting of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans in Washington, Friday, May 30, 2014. Shinseki faces calls to resign from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress because of an escalating scandal about problems in the VA's nationwide health care system. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki waits before he speaks at a meeting of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans in Washington, Friday, May 30, 2014. Shinseki faces calls to resign from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress because of an escalating scandal about problems in the VA's nationwide health care system. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki pauses as he speaks at a meeting of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, Friday, May 30, 2014, in Washington. President Barack Obama says he plans to have a "serious conversation" with Shinseki about whether he can stay in his job. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki leaves after speaking at a meeting of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, Friday, May 30, 2014, in Washington. President Barack Obama says he plans to have a "serious conversation" with Shinseki about whether he can stay in his job. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki speaks at a meeting of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, Friday, May 30, 2014, in Washington. President Barack Obama says he plans to have a "serious conversation" with Shinseki about whether he can stay in his job. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is seated before speaking at a meeting of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, Friday, May 30, 2014, in Washington. President Barack Obama says he plans to have a "serious conversation" with Shinseki about whether he can stay in his job. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Christine Allen, left, a 51-year-old former U.S. Army truck driver from Topeka, Kan., talks to U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, center, and U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, right, during their visit to the Colmery-O'Neil VA Medical Center Friday, June 13, 2014, in Topeka, Kan. Some Kansas veterans can't get medical appointments at U.S. Veterans Affairs facilities and are having scheduled checkups canceled as the dates approach, the two members of the state's congressional delegation said after touring the in Topeka VA medical center. Allen says she's not had problems getting appointments for VA services. (AP Photo/John Hanna)
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki waves as he arrives to speak at a meeting of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, Friday, May 30, 2014, in Washington. President Barack Obama says he plans to have a "serious conversation" with Shinseki about whether he can stay in his job. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Graphic shows findings from IG report on Phoenix VA health care; 2c x 4 inches; 96.3 mm x 101 mm;
U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, of North Dakota, is flanked by Lavonne Liversage, right, director of the Fargo Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and hospital chief of staff Dr. Breton Weintraub during a meeting at the hospital with representatives with veterans groups on Thursday, May 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Dave Kolpack)
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, tells reporters that he isn't quite ready to join other members of Congress who say Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki should resign in the wake of problems with the Veterans Affairs troubled health care system, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, May, 29, 2014. Boehner said he's reserving judgment about the embattled secretary and that President Barack Obama needs to step up and show leadership on the issue. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Dr. Maureen McCarthy, deputy chief patient care services for the Veterans Health Administration, center, flanked by Dr. Mary Lawrence, deputy director of the VA's Vision Center of Excellence, right, and Lorraine Landfried, deputy chief information officer for product development in the Depart of Veterans Affairs Office of Information Technology, appears on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, My 29, 2014, before the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations as it examines inadequacies in the Veterans Administration treatment of visually-impaired veterans. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, tells reporters that he isn't quite ready to join other members of Congress who say Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki should resign in the wake of problems with the Veterans Affairs troubled health care system, Thursday, May 29, 2014, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Boehner said he's reserving judgment about the embattled secretary and that President Barack Obama needs to step up and show leadership on the issue. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The U.S. Capitol is illuminated under a misty sky late Wednesday evening, May 28, 2014, in Washington, as the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs met until midnight investigating allegations of gross mismanagement and misconduct at VA hospitals possibly leading to patient deaths. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Dr. Thomas Lynch, the assistant deputy under secretary for health for clinical operations at the Veterans Health Administration, testifies as the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs hears about allegations of gross mismanagement and misconduct at VA hospitals possibly leading to patient deaths, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 28, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., a member of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, questions witnesses from the Department of Veterans Affairs as the panel investigates allegations of gross mismanagement and misconduct at VA hospitals possibly leading to patient deaths, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 28, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Paul Cook, R-Calif., right, and Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., members of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, listen as officials from the the Department of Veterans Affairs testify about allegations of gross mismanagement and misconduct at Veterans Administration hospitals, possibly leading to patient deaths, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 28, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
From left, Dr. Thomas Lynch, the assistant deputy under secretary for health for clinical operations at the Veterans Health Administration, Joan Mooney, the assistant secretary for congressional and legislative affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Michael Huff, a congressional relations officer with the Department of Veterans Affairs, testify as the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs hears from the three witnesses about allegations of gross mismanagement and misconduct at VA hospitals possibly leading to patient deaths, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 28, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Members of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., center, flanked by Rep. Paul Cook, R-Calif., right, and Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., left, listen as officials from the the Department of Veterans Affairs testify about allegations of gross mismanagement and misconduct at Veterans Administration hospitals, possibly leading to patient deaths, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 28, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, right, welcomes Dr. Thomas Lynch, left, the assistant deputy under secretary for health for clinical operations at the Veterans Health Administration, to testify as the committee hears about allegations of gross mismanagement and misconduct at VA hospitals possibly leading to patient deaths, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 28, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, holds a hearing about allegations of gross mismanagement and misconduct at VA hospitals possibly leading to patient deaths, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 28, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, walks to his office on Capitol Hill after internal investigators at the Veterans Affairs Department announced they had "substantiated serious conditions" at the Phoenix VA hospital, Wednesday, May 28, 2014. Rep. Miller's committee holds a hearing later with three witnesses who have been subpoenaed to testify about medical care for veterans. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
FILE - This May 15, 2014 file photo shows Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington. Veterans at the Phoenix veterans hospital waited on average 115 days for their first medical appointment _ 91 days longer than the hospital reported, the Veterans Affairs Department’s inspector general said Wednesday. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., immediately called for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign. Miller also said Attorney General Eric Holder should launch a criminal investigation into the VA. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)
FILE - This May 14, 2014 file photo shows Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. speaking to reporters on Capitol in Washington. Veterans at the Phoenix veterans hospital waited on average 115 days for their first medical appointment _ 91 days longer than the hospital reported, the Veterans Affairs Department’s inspector general said Wednesday. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and McCain, immediately called for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign. Miller also said Attorney General Eric Holder should launch a criminal investigation into the VA. (AP Photo, File)
FILE - This May 15, 2014 file photo shows Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Department of Veterans Affairs says it will allow more veterans to obtain health care at private hospitals and clinics. Shinseki announced the change Saturday. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)
Connie Olberg sits in her home in Sammamish, Wash., Wednesday, May 21, 2014, and holds a photo of her brother, Donald Douglass (in the photo at left), taken in the mid 1970s when he was serving in Germany in the U.S. Army. Douglass had a small spot on his forehead diagnosed as cancerous at the Seattle Veterans Affairs hospital in 2011, but according to his lawyer, the hospital's delay in removing it contributed to his death in 2012, a case that mirrors concerns being raised nationally about the VA health care system. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Connie Olberg walks in the backyard of her home in Sammamish, Wash., Wednesday, May 21, 2014, and carries a photo of her brother, Donald Douglass, after posing for a photo. Douglass, a U.S. Army veteran, had a small spot on his forehead diagnosed as cancerous at the Seattle Veterans Affairs hospital in 2011, but according to his lawyer, the hospital's delay in removing it contributed to his death in 2012, a case that mirrors concerns being raised nationally about the VA health care system. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
This photo from Saturday, May 17, 2014 shows the Department of Veterans Affairs in Phoenix. The Veterans Affairs Inspector General's office said late Tuesday, May 20, 2014, that 26 facilities are being investigated nationwide — up from 10 just last week — including a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, where 40 veterans allegedly died while waiting for treatment and staff there kept a secret list of patients waiting for appointments to hide delays in care. (AP Photo/Matt York)
President Barack Obama speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, May 21, 2014, following his meeting with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. Obama and Shinseki met Wednesday morning with White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors, who was assigned to oversee a review of the VA health care system in response to allegations of treatment delays and preventable deaths. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Barack Obama pauses while speaking in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, May 21, 2014, following his meeting with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. Seeking to head off a growing furor over veterans' health care, President Barack Obama declared Wednesday that allegations of misconduct at Veterans Affairs hospitals are "dishonorable" and will be not be tolerated by his administration.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
In this May 15, 2014, photo, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki speaks with the news media on Capitol Hill in Washington. Shinseki would be granted more authority to fire or demote senior executives under a bill headed to the House floor. The measure comes as pressure builds on Capitol Hill to overhaul the beleaguered agency in response to allegations of treatment delays and preventable deaths. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 15, 2014, after testifying before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing to examine the state of Veterans Affairs health care. Facing calls to resign, Shinseki said Thursday that he hopes to have a preliminary report within three weeks on how widespread treatment delays and falsified patient scheduling reports are at VA facilities nationwide, following allegations that up to 40 veterans may have died while awaiting treatment at the Phoenix VA center. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki listens to a reporters question while speaking with the news media on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 15, 2014, after testifying before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing to examine the state of Veterans Affairs health care. Facing calls to resign, Shinseki said Thursday that he hopes to have a preliminary report within three weeks on how widespread treatment delays and falsified patient scheduling reports are at VA facilities nationwide, following allegations that up to 40 veterans may have died while awaiting treatment at the Phoenix VA center. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 15, 2014, before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing to examine the state of Veterans Affairs health care. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 15, 2014, prior to testify before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing to examine the state of Veterans Affairs health care. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, left, and Veterans Affairs Undersecretary of Health Robert Petzel, MD, prepare to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 15, 2014, before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing to examine the state of Veterans Affairs health care. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
FILE - Veteran Mark Howey waits to ask a question as Sen. John McCain speaks during a forum with veterans regarding lapses in care at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs hospital, on Friday, May 9, 2014, in Phoenix. Grieving family members of dead veterans have joined politicians from both parties in loud protests over VA care. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Lillian "Bonnie" D'Amico, poses for a photograph while holding a photo of her son Nicholas D'Amico in El Paso, Texas, Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Her son killed himself while waiting for a an appointment with a psychiatrist. Some Veterans Affairs facilities in Texas have among the longest wait-times in the nation for those trying to see a doctor for the first time, according to federal data released Monday. (AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca)
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Tens of thousands more veterans than previously reported are forced to wait at least a month for medical appointments at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics, according to an updated audit of 731 VA medical facilities released Thursday.

The updated report includes new figures showing that the wait times actually experienced at most VA facilities were shorter than those on waiting lists for pending appointments. For instance, new patients at the Atlanta VA hospital waited about an average of 44 days for an appointment in April, the new report said. But the average wait for pending appointments at Atlanta was 66 days.

Similar disparities in average wait times were found around the country. Pending appointments, for example, don't include patients who walk into a clinic and get immediate or quick treatment, VA officials said. They also don't reflect rescheduled appointments or those that are moved up because of openings due to cancellations.

VA officials said the two sets of data complement one another, but both are evidence that many veterans face long waits for care. More than 56,000 veterans were waiting more than 90 days for an initial appointment, the new report said.

"In many communities across the country, veterans wait too long for the high quality care they've earned and deserve," acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said Thursday.

The department has reached out to 70,000 veterans to get them off waiting lists and into clinics, Gibson said, "but there is still much more work to be done."

The report released Thursday showed that about 10 percent of veterans seeking medical care at VA hospitals and clinics have to wait at least 30 days for an appointment. That's more than double the 4 percent of veterans the government said last week were forced to endure long waits.

Gibson called the increase unfortunate, but said it was probably an indication that more reliable data was being reported by VA schedulers, rather than a big increase in veteran wait times.

Administrators at local VA medical centers questioned the results of an audit released June 9, which looked only at pending appointments. The report did not match internal data on completed appointments showing waits actually were far shorter, the local officials said.

The reliability of both sets of data is in question. The VA is investigating widespread manipulation of appointment data by schedulers following an uproar over since-confirmed allegations that dozens of veterans died while awaiting appointments at the Phoenix VA medical center.

Some 13 percent of schedulers surveyed by the auditors reported being told by supervisors to falsify appointment records to make patient waits appear shorter. The VA's inspector general has cited a since-abandoned performance bonus system as a reason for the falsifications, which schedulers used to mask frequent, long delays in treatment for veterans.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned three weeks ago amid an election-year firestorm over the treatment delays and waiting list problems at VA facilities nationwide.

Shinseki took the blame for what he decried as a "lack of integrity" through the VA network, which serves nearly 9 million veterans. The House and Senate have approved separate bills to allow more veterans who can't get timely VA appointments to see local doctors listed instead. The proposals also would make it easier to fire senior VA regional officials and hospital administrators.

The June 9 audit found that more than 57,000 veterans were waiting at least 90 days for their first VA medical appointments, and an additional 64,000 appeared to have fallen through the cracks, never getting appointments after enrolling for VA care within the past 10 years.

The new report said the number of veterans waiting more than 90 days dropped to about 56,300. About 46,400 veterans still have never gotten an appointment despite seeking one over the past decade, the report said.

Gibson, who replaced Shinseki May 30, said he still is not 100 percent confident that all wait times listed on VA computers - and its audits - are accurate.

"I have vastly greater confidence in the quality" of wait-time data being reported by VA employees, he said during a speech this week in Washington. "But I can't look at the entire database and say it's correct either."

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Matthew Daly can be reached at https://twitter.com/MatthewDalyWDC

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