They never learn: Watchdog finds falsified wait times at 40 VA facilities
After two years of investigations, the inspector general for Veterans Affairs has found that 40 VA facilities around the country are guilty of deliberately falsifying reports on wait times for clients.
To date, only 4 low level VA staffers have been fired despite the fact that supervisors ordered the falsifications of records in almost all instances.
The VA’s inspector general has released two years’ worth of reports totaling 70 investigations, finding that VA supervisors ordered employees to cook the books on wait times regularly, despite a promised crackdown on mismanagement and data manipulation by VA Secretary Robert McDonald. In some cases, investigators found that the falsifying of records at VA facilities had been going on for a decade.
House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, Florida Republican, said the reports “outline a host of serious scheduling issues that masked wait times at VA facilities around the country.”
“And in classic VA fashion, almost no one has been seriously held accountable for any of this wrongdoing,” Mr. Miller said. “In fact, according to VA’s own data, the department has successfully fired just four low-level employees for wait-time manipulation. Right now it’s incumbent on VA leaders to explain why that’s the case given the IG’s findings of widespread wait-time manipulation and other serious problems.”
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, called for a new investigation into whistleblower allegations that the Phoenix VA Health Care System staff have been cancelling pending appointments for deceased veterans to conceal connections between the pending appointments and veterans’ deaths, or to improve hospital and clinic wait-time statistics. Mr. McCain also asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to review potential criminal activity at the VA, if a new IG investigation uncovers wrongdoing.
“This weekend marks two years since the scandal in which veterans died waiting for care on non-existent wait-lists first came to light,” Mr. McCain said. “Despite the severity of this national scandal, whistleblowers in Arizona continue to report serious failures at the VA, including gross scheduling violations that closely resemble the widespread wait-time manipulation that led to the crisis of denied and delayed care in the first place. It’s past time for this administration to root-out wrongdoing at the VA by holding corrupt executives accountable and finally reforming the culture that is denying our veterans the care they deserve.”
USA Today, which uncovered many of the IG reports through the Freedom of Information Act, said the probes showed that VA supervisors ordered employees to manipulate wait times in Arkansas, California, Delaware, Illinois, New York, Texas and Vermont, giving the false impression facilities there were meeting VA performance measures for shorter wait times.
Wasn't there supposed to be some kind of "culture change" at the VA to fix these problems? If anything, supervisors have become even more adept at hiding the truth. What's especially troubling is that veterans are dying as a result of these delays and the VA is covering it up. That should result in criminal charges - if the VA ever gets around to firing these supervisors first.
The corruption starts at the top. Because the White House has had lax oversight of what the VA is doing, the problem of delayed waiting periods for treatment and the subsquent falsifying of records has only gotten worse and appears to have reached epidemic proportions. Firing Secretary McDonald is not the answer. A wholesale, top to bottom house cleaning is called for.
Only then will our veterans have a chance at decent treatment.