CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — The Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg reportedly has intentionally manipulated patient data to artificially reduce reported wait times and the volume of patient visits.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel said in a press release issued Oct. 3 that a confidential whistleblower came to the agency with the disclosures of data manipulation, prompting an investigation.

According to the investigative report, over the last seven years a manager at the facility attempted to influence nursing staff to place emergency patients in two unofficial clinics, rather than record their emergency department encounter.

“The decision to create these clinics within the emergency department violated VA Directives and prevented an accurate analysis of staff workload,” the press release said. “It also gave the false impression that the Primary Care clinic had a greater workload and demand for services.”

The release states that the VA also improperly coded patient encounters for medical billing purposes.

“The VA informed OSC it charged 602 veterans an incorrect co-payment, resulting in a total lost revenue of $21,070 for the clinic,” the release said.

According to the release, the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center immediately discontinued the practice, developed a process for clinic approvals, and educated leadership and staff on the requirements contained in agency directives violated in this matter. The VA also counseled the manager responsible for the creation of these improper clinics.

The agency is currently determining how to recoup lost payments.

“Whistleblowers who bring agency wrongdoing to light perform a valuable public service and deserve our gratitude,” Acting Special Counsel Tristan Leavitt said in the release. “Manipulating data to reduce reported wait times is an unscrupulous use of taxpayer dollars and unfair to veterans. I applaud the immediate response by the Johnson VA Medical Center to correct these deficiencies.”

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