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VA to investigate backdating allegations at Hibbing clinic

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The Department of Veterans Affairs' office of inspector general announced Wednesday that it has begun looking into alleged misconduct at a VA outpatient clinic in Hibbing, where six former employees said they were ordered to falsify appointment records to hide long waits.

The employees told the Star Tribune in a report published last month they were ordered by the company that operates the clinic, Sterling Medical Associates, to backdate records to show that veterans had waited no more than two weeks for an appointment, instead of the actual waiting times of six to eight weeks.

After the allegations came to light, U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Reps. Tim Walz and Rick Nolan called for an investigation.

Sterling Medical manages at least four other VA outpatient clinics in Minnesota, including facilities in Mankato, St. James and Ely, according to the Star Tribune. The company has denied the allegations.

A spokesman for the Minneapolis VA Health Care System told WDIO claims about backdating of records were investigated in June and were found to be unsubstantiated.

In a statement, former employee Bobbi Jo VonAlman told WDIO that when VA officials from Minneapolis came to Hibbing in June they only questioned workers in the presence of Sterling management. But the Minneapolis VA spokesman tells the station that’s not the case.

The inspector general's office also recently investigated concerns about the case of a Marine whose appointment at the Minneapolis VA hospital was rescheduled four days after he died.

Investigators concluded last month there was no falsification of records. They said soon before he died, Cpl. Jordan Buisman had called an automated system to request a change in his appointment. It was rescheduled four days later by a staff member unaware that Buisman had died, the investigators found.

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