Obama transition team told of VA scheduling problems in 2008

The Washington Times is reporting that officials at the Veterans Administration briefed the Obama transition team that VA hospitals were reporting inaccurate wait times and scheduling failures that was costing veterans timely treatment.

Veterans Affairs officials warned the Obama-Biden transition team in the weeks after the 2008 presidential election that the department shouldn’t trust the wait times that its facilities were reporting.

“This is not only a data integrity issue in which [Veterans Health Administration] reports unreliable performance data; it affects quality of care by delaying — and potentially denying — deserving veterans timely care,” the officials wrote.

The briefing materials, obtained by The Washington Times through the Freedom of Information Act, make clear that the problems existed well before Mr. Obama took office, dating back at least to the Bush administration. But the materials raise questions about what actions the department took since 2009 to remedy the problems.

In recent months, reports have surfaced about secret wait lists at facilities across the country and, in the case of a Phoenix VA facility, accusations that officials cooked the books to try to hide long wait times. Some families said veterans died while on a secret wait list at the Phoenix facility.

Last week, Dr. Robert Petzel, undersecretary for health in the Department of Veterans Affairs, resigned. His boss, Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, told Congress he will stay despite growing calls for his resignation.

Mr. Shinseki, a disabled veteran, has headed the department since the beginning of Mr. Obama’s first term, when the VA report identified many of the problems.

“Should they have known? Absolutely, they should have known,” said Deirdre Parke Holleman, executive director of the Washington office for the Retired Enlisted Association, a veterans group, which has not taken a position on whether Mr. Shinseki should resign. “These are problems that should have been dealt with.”

The fact that the problems were apparent in 2008 suggests that the Bush administration also knew of the scheduling SNAFUs. Indeed, there were two inspector general reports during the Bush years that specifically mentioned the department not treating vets in a timely manner.

But there was no indication of fraud mentioned by the IG's in those reports. And the incoming administration took no steps to investigate the situation.

The transition briefing documents, obtained by the Times through a Freedom of Information Act request, show that an already damaged system was allowed to get so bad that employees shredded documents and falsified records in order to cover up the delays in scheduling appointments.

Obama can't blame that on Bush, even though he will try his best to do so.


 

 

The Washington Times is reporting that officials at the Veterans Administration briefed the Obama transition team that VA hospitals were reporting inaccurate wait times and scheduling failures that was costing veterans timely treatment.

Veterans Affairs officials warned the Obama-Biden transition team in the weeks after the 2008 presidential election that the department shouldn’t trust the wait times that its facilities were reporting.

“This is not only a data integrity issue in which [Veterans Health Administration] reports unreliable performance data; it affects quality of care by delaying — and potentially denying — deserving veterans timely care,” the officials wrote.

The briefing materials, obtained by The Washington Times through the Freedom of Information Act, make clear that the problems existed well before Mr. Obama took office, dating back at least to the Bush administration. But the materials raise questions about what actions the department took since 2009 to remedy the problems.

In recent months, reports have surfaced about secret wait lists at facilities across the country and, in the case of a Phoenix VA facility, accusations that officials cooked the books to try to hide long wait times. Some families said veterans died while on a secret wait list at the Phoenix facility.

Last week, Dr. Robert Petzel, undersecretary for health in the Department of Veterans Affairs, resigned. His boss, Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, told Congress he will stay despite growing calls for his resignation.

Mr. Shinseki, a disabled veteran, has headed the department since the beginning of Mr. Obama’s first term, when the VA report identified many of the problems.

“Should they have known? Absolutely, they should have known,” said Deirdre Parke Holleman, executive director of the Washington office for the Retired Enlisted Association, a veterans group, which has not taken a position on whether Mr. Shinseki should resign. “These are problems that should have been dealt with.”

The fact that the problems were apparent in 2008 suggests that the Bush administration also knew of the scheduling SNAFUs. Indeed, there were two inspector general reports during the Bush years that specifically mentioned the department not treating vets in a timely manner.

But there was no indication of fraud mentioned by the IG's in those reports. And the incoming administration took no steps to investigate the situation.

The transition briefing documents, obtained by the Times through a Freedom of Information Act request, show that an already damaged system was allowed to get so bad that employees shredded documents and falsified records in order to cover up the delays in scheduling appointments.

Obama can't blame that on Bush, even though he will try his best to do so.


 

 

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