VA scandal ballooning: Delayed care everywhere
The Veterans Administration's Inspector General says that delayed care for veterans and efforts to cover up those delays is "systemic" throughout the department.
"Our reviews at a growing number of VA medical facilities have thus far provided insight into the current extent of these inappropriate scheduling issues throughout the VA health care system and have confirmed that inappropriate scheduling practices" are widespread, the report said.
Investigators with the Inspector General's Office also said their probe into charges of delays in health care at a VA hospital in Phoenix shows that the care of patients was compromised.
Late-night testimony Wednesday by a top VA official before Congress amounted to a confession that the agency had lost its focus over the years, paying more attention to meeting performance standards than treating patients.
"I think that there is a potential that we have lost true north. I think we need to focus on our mission: treating veterans," says Thomas Lynch, an assistant deputy under secretary, referring to a tough 14-day treatment goal that investigators said VA schedulers repeatedly manipulated records to get around.
Lynch said that for years, investigators from the VA Office of Inspector General found evidence of schedulers "gaming" medical appointments to hide delay.
"We were told that the scheduling system was challenged," Lynch testified. "But we discounted the (inspector general) reports and patient concerns as exceptions, not the rule. We could and should have challenged those assumptions."
The inspector general probe released Wednesday found that 1,700 veterans who are patients at the Phoenix hospital are not on any official list awaiting appointments, even though they need to see doctors. Some 1,138 veterans in Phoenix had been waiting longer than six months just to get an appointment to see their primary doctors, investigators found.
"These veterans were and continue to be at risk of being forgotten or lost in the (Phoenix hospital's) convoluted scheduling process. As a result, these veterans may never obtain a requested or required clinical appointment," the report said.
Whoa. They "discounted the (inspector general) reports and patient concerns"? Just what did they need to get off their asses and address the problem? Dead vets? Even that didn't appear to raise the level of their concern.
And is this a typical big government bureaucracy or what? A "potential" that they have "lost true north." Put paper pushers in charge of the lives of our vets and they're more concerned with clearing out their inbox than they are whether veterans receive adequate, promopt health care.
There are growing calls for Secretary Eric Shineski to step down from both Democrats and Republicans. They've got to be kidding. With this administration? If the most incompetent government manager in several generations - Kathleen Sebelius - can hang on for 6 months following a catastrophic rollout of the biggest government IT project in history, Shineski is good for at least another year.