VA destroyed vets medical records as part of "efficiency' drive
The Veterans Administration destroyed thousands of medical records of military veterans because the backlog of exams made their efficiency record look bad.
The employee who tried to blow the whistle on the practice eventually lost his job.
Employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) destroyed veterans' medical files in a systematic attempt to eliminate backlogged veteran medical exam requests, a former VA employee told The Daily Caller.
Audio of an internal VA meeting obtained by TheDC confirms that VA officials in Los Angeles intentionally canceled backlogged patient exam requests.
"The committee was called System Redesign and the purpose of the meeting was to figure out ways to correct the department's efficiency. And one of the issues at the time was the backlog," Oliver Mitchell, a Marine veteran and former patient services assistant in the VA Greater Los Angeles Medical Center, told TheDC.
"We just didn't have the resources to conduct all of those exams. Basically we would get about 3,000 requests a month for [medical] exams, but in a 30-day period we only had the resources to do about 800. That rolls over to the next month and creates a backlog," Mitchell said. "It's a numbers thing. The waiting list counts against the hospitals efficiency. The longer the veteran waits for an exam that counts against the hospital as far as productivity is concerned."
By 2008, some patients were "waiting six to nine months for an exam" and VA "didn't know how to address the issue," Mitchell said.
VA Greater Los Angeles Radiology department chief Dr. Suzie El-Saden initiated an "ongoing discussion in the department" to cancel exam requests and destroy veterans' medical files so that no record of the exam requests would exist, thus reducing the backlog, Mitchell said.
Audio from a November 2008 meeting obtained by TheDC depicts VA Greater Los Angeles officials plotting to cancel backlogged exam requests.
"I'm still canceling orders from 2001," said a male official in the meeting.
"Anything over a year old should be canceled," replied a female official.
"Canceled or scheduled?" asked the male official.
"Canceled. ... Your backlog should start at April '07," the female official replied, later adding, "a lot of those patients either had their studies somewhere else, had their surgery ... died, don't live in the state. ... It's ridiculous."
Yes, it sure is ridiculous. Rather than bump the problem up the chain of command so that it could be addressed, the Los Angles VA decided to cover up their problems by destroying medical files so that no one could prove a veteran requested an exam.
The VA is underfunded, undermanned, and poorly run. The backlog for disability claims still stretches out to 6 months, with some cases not decided for years. Some of those claiming disability have no other income and desperately need help, be it for PTSD or some other illness or injury suffered while serving.
They gave so much of themselves for their country. Why can't we return the favor and make sure they're taken care of properly?