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    Default Veterans Administration Scandal

    what's this, number 20 or so in scandals?



    House Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing on Alleged Secret Wait Lists
    5/28/14
    This evening at 5:30pm MT/7:30pm ET, Congressman Doug Lamborn, the second ranking Republican on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, will be taking part in a hearing examining the VA’s failure to comply with subpoenas issued and designed to discover information on the VA’s destruction of documents that may be associated with the secret wait lists cited by Phoenix VA Health Care System whistleblowers.
    Three VA officials were previously invited to discuss this issue before the committee May 22, but refused to show up. VA has promised to make officials available to the committee May 28, but in the event they do not appear, VA will be served with a subpoena that would compel all three witnesses to testify before the committee May 30.
    WHO: House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
    WHAT: Hearing: “To Receive Witness Testimony Related to Committee Subpoena”
    WHEN: 7:30pm ET, Wednesday, May 28, 2014

    WHERE: 334 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC, and streaming at veterans.house.gov or live on C-SPAN 2


    Witness List

    Panel 1
    Thomas Lynch, M.D.
    Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Clinical Operations and Management
    Veterans Health Administration
    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

    The Honorable Joan Mooney
    Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs
    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

    Mr. Michael Huff
    Congressional Relations Officer
    Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs
    U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
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    Default Re: Veterans Administration Scandal

    McCain, McKeon Say Shinseki Should Resign

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    May 29, 2014 | by Bryant Jordan



    A new group of lawmakers are calling for the resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki following the release of a VA report that confirmed the existence of a secret waiting list at the Phoenix, Arizona VA hospital.


    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the findings in the interim report show that the VA’s problems are so great that only new leadership will help.


    McCain said the IG report stands in sharp contradiction to assurances he received on Tuesday from Shinseki that the Phoenix VA Medical Center managers consistently applied the VA’s national standard policy for its electronic waiting list.


    “It is alarming that Secretary Shinseki either wasn’t aware of these systemic problems, or wasn’t forthcoming in his communications with Congress about them. Either way, it is clear to me that new leadership is needed at the VA,” McCain said.


    “For these reasons, I believe that now is the time for Secretary Shinseki – a career soldier, a Vietnam combat veteran and a man whose career of service I have long admired – to step down from his post,” he said.


    McCain also said the Department of Justice should open a criminal investigation into the allegations that up to 40 veterans on a secret patient waiting list died before getting to see a doctor.

    The VA’s Office of the Inspector General said it is continuing its investigation into the Phoenix allegations, but Acting IG Richard Griffin, in the interim report just released, made no connection between the lists and any veteran deaths.


    He did say the situation at the VA Medical Center in Phoenix interfered with veterans access to timely health care.
    McKeon issued his call for Shinseki’s resignation shortly after Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, did the same.


    “I believe America’s veterans would be best served with a fresh set of eyes on the VA system. Only new innovations and aggressive reform can get the problems at the VA under control,” he said. "It would be best if General Shinseki stepped down as secretary, both as an example for other VA leaders and to lay the groundwork for new leadership to meet with success"


    Miller said Shinseki is not up to the job of holding accountable the people who have failed tens of thousands of veterans.


    “VA needs a leader who will take swift and decisive action to discipline employees responsible for mismanagement, negligence and corruption that harms veterans while taking bold steps to replace the department’s culture of complacency with a climate of accountability,” he said.


    Shinseki, a retired Army four-star, said he will stay on until his appointment ends, or until President Obama tells him it’s time to go. So far Obama has backed Shinseki.
    Shinseki, who on Wednesday called Griffin’s findings “reprehensible to me, to this Department, and to veterans,” immediately began acting on the recommendations in the report.


    Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and its former chairwoman, Patty Murray, D-Wash., also released statements on the IG interim report.


    The two acknowledged the seriousness of the reports findings and demanded action, but neither called for Shinseki to leave his post. Thus far only Republican lawmakers have pushed for a resignation, but Murray’s statement hinted that could change.


    Murray, pointing to longstanding claims that VA managers gamed the system, said Shinseki should act quickly and decisively.


    “The VA needs to stop rewarding bad behavior and create a real system of accountability and transparency,” Murray said. “It needs to put an end to what appears to be a pervasive culture of lying, cheating, and mismanagement. And it needs to act right away -- without waiting for more reports to come out detailing even more system-wide failures.”


    Murray said she told Shinseki that VA is at a point where “good intentions are no longer good enough.”
    -- Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@monster.com.
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    Default Re: Veterans Administration Scandal

    'Serious Conditions' at Phoenix Veterans Affairs Office, Watchdog Says

    Some Democratic Senators Join Republicans in Urging Shinseki to Step Down






    By Ben Kesling



    Updated May 28, 2014 11:16 p.m. ET

    Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki testified on Capitol Hill on May 15. Accusations of delayed or denied care appointments have led to calls for an investigation of the department. Associated Press







    A watchdog's report found systemic problems at Department of Veterans Affairs health-care facilities, including improper procedures for scheduling patient appointments and efforts to hide excessive wait times, increasing the pressure on embattled VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.


    The interim report by the VA's independent inspector general focuses on the Phoenix VA Health Care System in Arizona, where wait times for patient appointments were improperly reported, but also points to widespread scheduling problems throughout the VA health-care system.


    "Our reviews at more VA medical facilities…have confirmed that inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic," the report said. The inspector general said it had identified potential criminal and civil violations, and is coordinating efforts with the Justice Department.





    The Veterans Administration's inspector general found systemic scheduling problems in its review of 42 hospitals across the country, according to an interim report. How did schedulers in Phoenix cook the books? WSJ's Jason Bellini has #TheShortAnswer.
















    The report led to new calls in Congress for Mr. Shinseki to step down. A senior administration official said President Barack Obama's recent comments indicate Mr. Shinseki is on probation—and that hasn't changed. Mr. Shinseki didn't comment on his plans Wednesday, but in the past has said he doesn't plan to leave office.


    Release of the report sparked an immediate bipartisan outpouring of calls for Mr. Shinseki's resignation. For the first time, Democratic senators, including Sens. Mark Udall (D., Colo.) and John Walsh (D., Mont.), joined Republicans such as Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) in urging the former general to step aside.
    On Wednesday evening, three top VA officials under threat of subpoena faced hours of withering bipartisan criticism from members on the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.


    "What I don't understand is, as a veteran, as a doctor, as a practitioner, how you can look at yourself in the mirror and shave in the morning," Rep. Phil Roe (R., Tenn.) told Thomas Lynch, assistant deputy under secretary for health for clinical operations at the VA, who carried out the department's initial review of the problems in Phoenix.


    Mr. Lynch described the review's conclusions as "unacceptable" and conceded that the VA should have taken a more critical look at the problems. "I think people lost sight of the real goal of the VA—which is treating veterans," he said.


    The White House said Mr. Obama found the interim report "extremely troubling" and wants the Veterans Administration to take immediate steps to improve access to care, a spokesman said Wednesday.


    In Phoenix, 1,700 veterans were found to be waiting for primary-care appointments, yet didn't appear on the official electronic wait list, the report said. Inspectors found paper printouts representing hundreds of veterans who requested a primary-care appointment but who were never entered into the VA's appointment software. These and other unauthorized records might be the "secret" waiting lists that have been alleged to be used at the facility, the IG report said.


    The lack of officially tabulated wait times led the Phoenix VA leadership to have "significantly understated" the time new patients wait for an appointment, "which is one of the factors considered for awards and salary increases," the report said.


    "I respect the independent review and recommendations of the Office of Inspector General regarding systemic issues with patient scheduling and access," Mr. Shinseki said in a statement. "I have reviewed the interim report, and the findings are reprehensible to me, to this department and to veterans." He said in the statement he has ordered the Phoenix VA to provide timely care to the 1,700 veterans who weren't on the electronic wait list.


    In 2011, the VA revamped its targets for the time patients must wait to be seen, setting a target for 14 days between when a patient requests an appointment and when that patient is seen. On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal reported the VA's then-undersecretary for health, Robert Petzel, told veterans advocates at a May 14 meeting that 14-day wait times might have been "unrealistic." Mr. Petzel left his post two days later.



    Sen. John McCain, left, was at a forum earlier this month in Phoenix discussing lapses in care by the Phoenix VA Health Care System. Associated Press







    The IG report notes a variety of scheduling improprieties at the Phoenix facility, including actual wait times months longer than those reported. The Phoenix VA reported average wait times of 24 days for appointments. But the IG found patient wait times were actually some three months longer, averaging 115 days. And 84% of patients had to wait longer than the 14-day target.


    Because of improper scheduling procedures, Phoenix was reporting wait times of zero days for many primary-care appointments. The inspector general hasn't determined any management involvement in manipulating these wait times.


    The Phoenix VA has been under fire since mid-April when a former physician from the facility and the House Committee on Veterans affairs alleged that as many as 40 veterans died while waiting for appointments. At a May 15 Senate hearing, Richard Griffin, the VA's acting inspector general, said that out of 17 cases reviewed to that point, there was no evidence of patient deaths tied to excessive wait times.


    Mr. Shinseki placed the director of the Phoenix VA, Sharon Helman, on administrative leave on May 1, pending the results of the inspector general's review. She has said that she didn't know of any secret wait lists, and that she understood Mr. Shinseki's decision to place her on leave. A spokesman for Ms. Helman declined to comment.
    In 2010, a VA memo listed a variety of "gaming" strategies used to exploit loopholes in the scheduling system. In its most recent reviews, the IG has identified these same schemes in use in Phoenix and other VA facilities.


    Scheduling personnel told the IG that in a number of cases when veterans called a help line for an appointment, the scheduler would just print out a screenshot of the data. The printouts were eventually destroyed, and the IG "could not identify these veterans or confirm they were ever provided with an appointment."
    Another problem with the system: the Phoenix VA simply had switched off a number of audit controls within the scheduling software. As a result, neither the VA nor the IG were able to tell if "malicious manipulation" of appointment data had occurred.


    The IG is also reviewing allegations of sexual harassment and bullying at the Phoenix facility.


    In 2013, the VA health-care system had 8.92 million enrollees, being treated at more than 800 outpatient clinics, 300 VA centers and 150 hospitals. Not all veterans rely on VA care, often using private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, and not all qualify for care. To receive VA care, a veteran typically has to have retired from the military or suffer from a long-term injury sustained while in the service. Combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan can qualify for five years of health care in the VA system after an honorable discharge.


    —Colleen McCain Nelson, Michael Crittenden, Jeffrey Sparshott and Dion Nissenbaum contributed to this article.


    Write to Ben Kesling at benjamin.kesling@wsj.com
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    Default Re: Veterans Administration Scandal

    Current Veterans Administration scandal may be just the start







    May 27, 2014 9:15 am



    WASHINGTON • This latest controversy over problems at the Veterans Administration, which involves allegations that some veterans may have died while waiting for service at the Phoenix VA, may only be a precursor of things to come. The agency is struggling to deal with issues that were not as openly dealt with in previous wars, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.


    As the Post-Dispatch reported recently, mental health diagnoses among active duty service members increased by 65 percent between 2001 and 2011. After meeting last week with embattled VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the VA faces unprecedented claims for PTSD and other health issues.


    Diagnoses for PTSD were up six-fold between 2001 and 2011, according to the Congressional Research Service. In addition, Durbin said, a million veterans from Vietnam have sought VA help after Shinseki expanded the treatable conditions that may be related to exposure to Agent Orange.


    "So the system is really pushed hard at this point," Durbin told the Post-Dispatch. In some respects, he said, the demands are "unprecedented."


    You don't need to take Durbin's word on that latter point; simply look at the numbers. Another Congressional Research report released last year showed that Veterans Affairs spending, in 2011 dollars, is now more than twice what it was after World War II, when significantly higher numbers of men and women served. In 2011 dollars, according to CRS, the Veterans Affairs budget was $66.2 billion in 1948. President Barack Obama is asking for $163.9 billion in current dollars for 2015. (Chuck Raasch)


    HE SAID IT:



    "It's because of the Vietnam generation that I got a parade when I came home from Desert Storm, and it's because of that generation that our new generation of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will also get a parade once their wars finally end." —Joe Davis, Veterans of Foreign Wars public affairs director.
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    Default Re: Veterans Administration Scandal

    Report: 1,700 vets not on Phoenix VA wait list, at risk of being 'lost or forgotten'

    By Chelsea J. Carter, CNN
    updated 7:40 AM EDT, Thu May 29, 2014

    Source: CNN



    STORY HIGHLIGHTS

    • NEW: A veterans group demands a criminal investigation of medical center practices
    • NEW: 1,700 veterans will be contacted by the end of business Friday, a VA official says
    • VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is on ''thin ice'' with Obama, a White House official says
    • The scope widens, with 42 medical centers now under investigation




    (CNN) -- At least 1,700 military veterans waiting to see a doctor were never scheduled for an appointment and were never placed on a wait list at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Phoenix, raising the question of just how many may have been "forgotten or lost" in the system, according to a preliminary report made public Wednesday.
    Describing a "systemic" practice of manipulating appointments and wait lists at the Phoenix Health Care System, the VA's Office of Inspector General called for a nationwide review to determine whether veterans at other locations were falling through the cracks.
    Scathing report released on VA scandal
    It also appears to indicate the scope of the inquiry is rapidly widening, with 42 VA medical centers across the country now under investigation for possible abuse of scheduling practices, according to the report.
    Among the findings at the Phoenix VA, investigators determined one consequence of manipulating appointments for the veterans was understating patient wait times -- a factor considered for VA employee bonuses and raises, the report said.
    The preliminary report sparked outrage from all corners, with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki calling the findings "reprehensible" and ordering the 1,700 veterans be immediately "triaged" for care, while some lawmakers called for the agency's chief to resign.
    Shinseki has been on "probation" since President Barack Obama vowed last week to hold accountable those responsible for the delays, and he remains on "thin ice" with the President pending the outcome of the internal investigations, a White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told CNN.
    The VA is under fire over allegations of alarming shortcomings at its medical facilities. The controversy, as CNN first reported, involves delayed care with potentially fatal consequences in possibly dozens of cases.
    McCain: Time for Shinseki to move on
    Report: 1,700 vets left off VA wait list
    VA Whistleblower tells his story
    Jay Carney on CNN and VA scandal
    CNN has reported that in Phoenix, the VA used fraudulent record-keeping -- including an alleged secret list -- that covered up excessive waiting periods for veterans, some of whom died in the process.
    'Numerous allegations'
    The big questions remain under investigation, according to the report: Did the facility's electronic wait list omit the names of veterans waiting for care and, if so, at who's direction?
    And were the deaths of any of these veterans related to delays in care?
    "To date our work has substantiated serious conditions at the Phoenix facility," said the report, which also found another 1,400 veterans were on the Phoenix VA's formal electronic wait list but did not have a doctor's appointment.
    The report also found "numerous allegations" of "daily of mismanagement, inappropriate hiring decisions, sexual harassment, and bullying behavior by mid- and senior-level managers."
    Calling the report's initial findings "damning," House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Florida, said "you can only imagine" what might come out once a fuller investigation is completed.
    The investigation is expected to be completed later this summer, with a final report issued by the VA inspector general in August.
    The report's findings prompted the American Legion to call for a criminal investigation.
    "We want every VA employee who participated in these cover-ups to be investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law ..." the veterans group said in a written statement.
    The U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing the interim report, Peter Carr, a Justice Department spokesman, said. "We will continue to consult with the inspector general's office regarding their ongoing review," he said.
    Calls for Shinseki's resignation
    Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, told CNN it was "about time" the Justice Department launched its own investigation.
    "I haven't said this before, but I think it's time for Gen. Shinseki to move on," McCain said.
    There have been calls from other members of Congress for him to step down over the scandal, but McCain's voice on military matters carries enormous weight considering his experience as a combat veteran, a Vietnam prisoner of war, and his work in the Senate on related issues.
    Shinseki finds himself in a firestorm
    A number of Senate Democrats, all up for re-election this year, also called for Shinseki to leave his post.
    Among them was Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado who took to Twitter with his message: "In light of IG report & systemic issues at @DeptVetAffairs, Sec. Shinseki must step down."
    Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota said a change in leadership is needed.
    "I believe it would be in the best interest of veterans for Secretary Shinseki to step down," he said.
    Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire said "fundamental problems plague the agency."
    "It's time for a forceful new leader to address the outrageous problems at the VA," she said.
    Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken told CNN that President Barack Obama has been briefed on the report, and found it "deeply troubling."
    When pressed on whether Obama still supports Shinseki, Blinken said: "We're focused on making sure these veterans who've delivered for this country get the care they need."
    IG: 'Take immediate action'
    The VA has acknowledged 23 deaths nationwide due to delayed care. The VA's inspector general, Richard Griffin, told a Senate committee in recent weeks that his investigation so far had found a possible 17 deaths of veterans waiting for care in Phoenix, but he added that there was no evidence that excessive waiting was the reason.
    Griffin recommended that Shinseki "take immediate action" to "review and provide appropriate health care" to the 1,700 veterans identified in Phoenix as not being on a wait list.
    It also recommended that he initiate a nationwide review of waiting lists "to ensure that veterans are seen in an appropriate time, given their clinical condition."
    The report came just hours before the start of a combative House committee hearing on the Phoenix VA issues, where Republican and Democratic leaders said they were dissatisfied with the VA's response to their panel's subpoena for documents on shortcomings related at the agency's Phoenix medical center.
    "Veterans died. Give us the answers, please," Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican, told one of three senior VA officials called to testify.
    The committee's senior Democrat, Michael Michaud of Maine, was equally sharp with the witnesses, who initially sparred with lawmakers over the agency's response for documents before answering questions about Phoenix.
    "Let me be clear, I'm not happy. We do expect answers. We'll get to the bottom of this," Michaud said.
    Dr. Thomas Lynch, the VA's assistant deputy under secretary for clinical operations, told the committee there are plans in place to contact the 1,700 veterans in Phoenix by the close of business on Friday to assess their needs and get them care.
    Lynch, who said he agreed with the interim report's findings, believes that overarching agency goals for reducing wait times for care are flawed.
    "What's happened is unacceptable," he said.
    VA pledges faster appointments
    The VA's troubled history
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    Default Re: Veterans Administration Scandal

    Watchdog finds ‘systemic’ problems at VA, Shinseki faces bipartisan calls to resign

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    Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki speaks with the news media on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 15, 2014, after testifying before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing to examine the state of Veterans Affairs health care.AP


    The official watchdog for the Department of Veterans Affairs claimed in a scathing report that the department has a "systemic" problem with clinics lying about patient wait times, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle joined calls for Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.
    The VA Office of Inspector General released its interim report on Wednesday, as part of its ongoing probe into whether veterans died as a result of under-reported delays. While not reaching any conclusion on what led to those deaths, the office released troubling statistics regarding the embattled Phoenix VA facility suggesting workers under-stated wait-times in order to make their internal figures look good.
    The office, in its preliminary findings, determined that veterans in Phoenix waited an average of 115 days for a primary care appointment -- far longer than the VA's official statistics showed. Such inappropriate scheduling tactics, according to the report, may be the basis for claims of "secret" waiting lists.
    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who until now had held off on urging Shinseki to resign, said during a press conference at his Phoenix office Wednesday afternoon that "it's time for Secretary Shinseki to step down" -- and that if he won't, "then I call on the president of the United States to relieve him of his duties, fire him."
    The longtime senator and Vietnam veteran also called on the Justice Department to get involved, saying the allegations detail not just administrative issues, but "criminal problems."
    In the wake of the report's release, five Senate Democrats facing tough election campaigns -- Colorado's Mark Udall, Montana's John Walsh, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Al Franken of Minnesota and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire -- called for Shinseki to leave. House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., also called for Shinseki to "resign immediately."
    So far, President Obama has stood by his VA secretary, though the White House released a statement saying the president has been briefed on the findings and found them "extremely troubling." Shinseki released a statement on Wednesday calling the latest findings "reprehensible," but did not offer his resignation.
    The report released Wednesday focused on the Phoenix VA facility, while noting that reviews at a "growing number" of facilities have exposed inappropriate scheduling practices throughout the VA system. According to the office, the investigation has now expanded to 42 VA medical facilities nationwide.
    The IG's office released figures showing the Phoenix office "significantly understated" the amount of time patients waited for appointments.
    "To date, our work has substantiated serious conditions at the Phoenix" center, the report said, claiming the delays have "negatively impacted the quality of care."
    According to the IG's office, about 1,400 veterans awaiting a primary care appointment were appropriately included on the electronic wait-list -- but an additional 1,700 veterans waiting for an appointment were left off that list. The omission, the report warned, raises the risk that these veterans will be "forgotten or lost" in the "convoluted" Phoenix system.
    Shinseki, in his statement, said he's ordered the Phoenix system to "immediately triage" each of the 1,700 veterans in order to "bring them timely care."
    The IG's office also said VA national data had claimed patient wait times among a sample of Phoenix veterans typically was about 24 days. But the IG's own review found the average wait was actually 115 days.
    The report would appear to substantiate allegations that clinics played around with the schedules to make it seem like patients were being seen sooner. The VA offices at Phoenix and several other locations have been accused of covering up the long waits by using improper scheduling tactics. About 40 veterans are said to have died while awaiting care in Phoenix.
    Dr. Samuel Foote, a former clinic director for the VA in Phoenix who was the first to bring the allegations to light, said the findings were no surprise.
    "I knew about all of this all along," Foote told The Associated Press in an interview. "The only thing I can say is you can't celebrate the fact that vets were being denied care."
    Foote took issue with the finding by the inspector general that patients had, on average, waited 115 days for their first medical appointment.
    "I don't think that number is correct. It was much longer," he said. "It seemed to us to be about six months."
    Still, Foote said it is good that the VA finally appears to be addressing some long-standing problems.
    "Everybody has been gaming the system for a long time," he said. "Phoenix just took it to another level. ... The magnitude of the problem nationwide is just so huge, so it's hard for most people to get a grasp on it."
    Miller also called for Attorney General Eric Holder to launch a criminal probe into the VA's "scheduling corruption" in light of the report.
    "Today the inspector general confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt what was becoming more obvious by the day: wait time schemes and data manipulation are systemic throughout VA and are putting veterans at risk in Phoenix and across the country," he said in a statement.
    Also Wednesday, Miller’s House Committee on Veterans Affairs held a hearing to address what he called the VA’s “continued lack of compliance” with a subpoena the committee issued last month. Three VA officials testified at the hearing.
    The committee subpoenaed Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki on May 8 for emails and documents tied to an alleged secret "waiting list" for sick veterans at a Phoenix VA hospital.
    Miller said he does not believe the documents that have been produced as a result of the subpoena are the result of a thorough investigation for relevant records.
    He said he knows the VA is withholding at least three documents from relevant communications because of attorney client privilege.
    One of the VA officials, Joan Mooney, deferred questions about any documents that may have not been turned over to the committee to the VA’s general counsel.
    However, Miller said he will not rest until they get a complete explanation.
    “We expect VA to be forthcoming but unfortunately it takes repeated requests and threats of compulsion to get VA to bring their people here,” he said.
    Following the hearing, Dr. Thomas Lynch, the VA's Deputy Under Secretary for Health, claimed that there were no secret waiting lists. Lynch said that the canceled appointments were part of an attempt to improve the clinic's efficiency.
    Miller dismissed Lynch's claim by saying "There are secret lists. There are even multiple lists at some areas of speciality."
    Fox News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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    Default Re: Veterans Administration Scandal

    Severe Report Finds V.A. Hid Waiting Lists at Hospitals

    By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. and MICHAEL D. SHEAR


    Photo

    The Veterans Affairs medical center in Phoenix, where 1,700 patients were not placed on the official waiting list for doctors’ appointments, a report by the agency’s inspector general found. Credit Christian Petersen/Getty Images
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    In the first confirmation that Department of Veterans Affairs administrators manipulated medical waiting lists at one and possibly more hospitals, the department’s inspector general reported on Wednesday that 1,700 patients at the veterans medical center in Phoenix were not placed on the official waiting list for doctors’ appointments and may never have received care.
    The scathing report by Richard J. Griffin, the acting inspector general, validates allegations raised by whistle-blowers and others that Veterans Affairs officials in Phoenix employed artifices to cloak long waiting times for veterans seeking medical care. Mr. Griffin said the average waiting time in Phoenix for initial primary care appointments, 115 days, was nearly five times as long as what the hospital’s administrators had reported.
    He suggested that the falsified data may have led to more favorable performance reviews for hospital personnel, and he indicated that some instances of potentially manipulated data had been turned over to the Justice Department.
    Continue reading the main story
    Share Your Experience With Veterans Affairs Health Care

    New York Times journalists would like to hear from veterans about their experiences with health care at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics



    Mr. Griffin said that similar kinds of manipulation to hide long and possibly growing waiting times were “systemic throughout” the sprawling Veterans Affairs health care system, with its 150 medical centers serving eight million veterans each year. The inspector general’s office is reviewing practices at 42 Veterans Affairs medical facilities.
    Mr. Griffin’s report brought immediate political consequences. For the first time since the controversy erupted last month, several Senate Democrats, including Mark Udall of Colorado and John Walsh of Montana, demanded that the secretary of veterans affairs, Eric Shinseki, step down, joining Republican lawmakers who have been making that demand for weeks.
    Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, a former naval aviator who was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War and is now an influential voice on veterans issues, also called on Wednesday for Mr. Shinseki to resign. Along with several other leading Republican lawmakers who had been withholding judgment, Mr. McCain asked the F.B.I. to investigate the Phoenix hospital. Mr. Griffin previously said that he was working with the Justice Department to examine whether criminal violations had occurred there.
    Mr. Shinseki, in a statement, called the findings “reprehensible to me” and ordered the department to “immediately triage each of the 1,700 veterans” and give them timely care. The department suspended two senior officials at the Phoenix medical center shortly after the allegations of falsified waiting lists became public this month.
    Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said President Obama found the report “extremely troubling,” but he did not indicate whether Mr. Shinseki had lost the confidence of the White House.
    Mr. Griffin’s interim report — the final version is expected by August — did not address the most explosive allegations made about the Phoenix facility: that as many as 40 veterans who were never put on the official list for doctors’ appointments might have died while awaiting care. He said determinations could be made only after examining autopsy reports and other documents that were still being reviewed. He had previously said that after reviewing 17 of those cases, he had found no indication that any of those deaths were tied to delays.
    But the rest of his report was sweeping in its indictment of the Phoenix hospital, and contained sharp criticism of much of the rest of the veterans health care bureaucracy.
    Continue reading the main story
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    “While our work is not complete, we have substantiated that significant delays in access to care negatively impacted the quality of care at this medical facility,” Mr. Griffin said.
    Irregularities in how the 1,700 veterans were handled, he added, mean that “these veterans may never obtain a requested or required clinical appointment.”
    Investigators from the inspector general’s office reviewed a sample of 226 patients and found that they waited an average of 115 days for their first primary care appointment at the Phoenix medical center, but their average waiting time was reported to the national Veterans Affairs office as being only 24 days.
    The interim report did not dwell on the motivations for falsely reporting waiting times, nor did it single out any employees or hospital administrators by name.
    But it stated that a “direct consequence” of the inappropriate waiting lists was that the medical center’s leadership “significantly understated the time new patients waited for their primary care appointment” in its performance appraisal accomplishments for the 2013 fiscal year, which was a factor considered for bonuses and salary increases.
    Mr. Griffin also suggested that his team may have already found some indication of criminal wrongdoing. “When sufficient credible evidence is identified supporting a potential violation of criminal and/or civil law, we have contacted and are coordinating our efforts with the Department of Justice,” he wrote.
    He said in his report that his investigators had identified several types of improper scheduling practices in Phoenix. They found multiple waiting lists aside from the official electronic waiting list, and said that “these additional lists may be the basis for allegations of creating ‘secret’ wait lists” that have been cited by whistle-blowers.
    The allegations identified by investigators were not limited to waiting lists. Mr. Griffin said his office had received “numerous allegations daily of mismanagement, inappropriate hiring decisions, sexual harassment, and bullying behavior by mid- and senior-level managers at this facility.”
    Mr. Shinseki, a soft-spoken former four-star Army general and chief of staff, has had support on Capitol Hill from some lawmakers partly because of his long military career.
    But the release of the inspector general’s report increased the pressure on him to step down, especially after some Senate Democrats broke with others in the party late in the day to demand his removal.
    Mr. Walsh, the Montana senator, said that the report “confirms the worst of the allegations against the V.A.,” and that “it’s time to put the partisanship aside and focus on what’s right for our veterans.”
    Representative Jeff Miller, the Florida Republican who is the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said the report “confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt what was becoming more obvious by the day: wait time schemes and data manipulation are systemic throughout V.A. and are putting veterans at risk in Phoenix and across the country.”
    Mr. Miller had previously held off on calling for Mr. Shinseki’s resignation, but he did so on Wednesday, saying that the former general “appears completely oblivious to the severity of the health care challenges facing the department.”
    Mr. McCain said on CNN that he had intended to wait to comment on Mr. Shinseki’s future until further hearings were held on the issue. But after hearing about the report, he decided to speak out.
    “I think it’s reached that point,” he said. “This keeps piling up.”

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    Default Re: Veterans Administration Scandal

    So... a grounding here at home.... I personally know two vets who've been "ignored" to a great extent.

    One is my son who was blown off a building in Iraq. Fell two stories and wound up hitting the ground with all his gear on him. He was shuffled around in the VA for the last few years for back issues, lung problems.

    The other guy, had some injury over in Afghanistan. He's had some problems which MIGHT be MS... but, there has been no diagnosis, they keep shuffling HIM around. Last thing he told me was he had an MRI about 2 months ago. Since then he's heard NOTHING from them. Both of them are going to VA hospitals up around Denver and Aurora.
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    Default Re: Veterans Administration Scandal

    VA report: Vets averaged 115-day doctor wait

    By The Associated PressUpdated: Published:
    This photo from Saturday, May 17, 2014 shows the Department of Veterans Affairs in Phoenix. The Veterans Affairs Inspector General's office said late Tuesday, May 20, 2014, that 26 facilities are being investigated nationwide — up from 10 just last week — including a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, where 40 veterans allegedly died while waiting for treatment and staff there kept a secret list of patients waiting for appointments to hide delays in care. (AP Photo/Matt York)
    WASHINGTON (AP) – The Department of Veterans Affairs’ internal watchdog says veterans at the Phoenix VA hospital waited on average 115 days for their first medical appointment.
    That’s 91 days, on average, longer than the hospital had reported.
    An interim report by the inspector general says investigators have “substantiated serious conditions” at the hospital, including 1,700 veterans who were waiting for an medical care but were not on an official waiting list.
    The inspector general is investigating 26 VA facilities nationwide, including the Phoenix hospital. The review follows allegations that several veterans died while awaiting treatment and that secret waiting lists were created to hide delays in care.
    A report Wednesday says 84 percent of veterans at Phoenix waited more than the agency target of 14 days for an appointment.
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    Default Re: Veterans Administration Scandal

    Shinseki on VA scandal: 'We are not waiting to set things straight'

    By Jason Hanna and Chelsea J. Carter, CNN
    updated 9:16 AM EDT, Thu May 29, 2014

    Your video will begin momentarily.


    STORY HIGHLIGHTS

    • Shinseki: "We are doing all we can to accelerate access to care throughout our system"
    • 1,700 veterans will be contacted by the end of business Friday, a VA official says
    • Shinseki is on ''thin ice'' with Obama, a White House official says
    • The scope widens, with 42 medical centers now under investigation




    (CNN) -- A day after he was said to be on "thin ice" with the President, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki says he's doing his utmost to address an inspector general's finding that hundreds of military veterans may have had their care delayed as VA hospital workers allegedly manipulated wait lists.
    In an opinion piece published Thursday in USA Today, Shinseki wrote that he found the report "reprehensible" and that he's "not waiting to set things straight."
    The piece comes a day after the inspector general's preliminary report said that at least 1,700 military veterans waiting to see a doctor were never scheduled for an appointment and were never placed on a wait list at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Phoenix, raising the question of just how many may have been "forgotten or lost" in the system.
    "I immediately directed the Veterans Health Administration ... to contact each of the 1,700 veterans in Phoenix waiting for primary care appointments in order to bring them the care they need and deserve," Shinseki wrote in the USA Today piece.
    Shinseki reiterated other steps he's taken, including putting the leadership at the Phoenix facility on leave May 1 and ordering a "nationwide audit of all other major VA health care facilities to ensure understanding of, and compliance with, our appointment policy."
    Scathing report released on VA scandal
    McCain: Time for Shinseki to move on
    Report: 1,700 vets left off VA wait list
    VA Whistleblower tells his story
    "We are doing all we can to accelerate access to care throughout our system and in communities where veterans reside," Shinseki wrote. "I've challenged our leadership to ensure we are doing everything possible to schedule veterans for their appointments. We, at the Department of Veterans Affairs, are redoubling our efforts, with commitment and compassion, to restore integrity to our processes to earn veterans' trust."
    Dr. Thomas Lynch, the VA's assistant deputy undersecretary for clinical operations, has said there are plans in place to contact the 1,700 veterans in Phoenix by the close of business Friday to assess their needs and get them care.
    Describing a "systemic" practice of manipulating appointments and wait lists at the Phoenix Health Care System, the VA's Office of Inspector General called for a nationwide review to determine whether veterans at other locations were falling through the cracks.
    It also appears to indicate that the scope of the inquiry is rapidly widening, with 42 VA medical centers across the country now under investigation for possible abuse of scheduling practices, according to the report.
    Among the findings at the Phoenix VA, investigators determined that one consequence of manipulating appointments for the veterans was understating patient wait times, a factor considered for VA employee bonuses and raises, the report said.
    The preliminary report sparked outrage from all corners, with some lawmakers calling for the agency's chief to resign.
    Shinseki has been on "probation" since President Barack Obama vowed last week to hold accountable those responsible for the delays, and he remains on "thin ice" with the President pending the outcome of the internal investigations, a White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told CNN.
    The VA is under fire over allegations of alarming shortcomings at its medical facilities. The controversy, as CNN first reported, involves delayed care with potentially fatal consequences in some cases.
    CNN has reported that in Phoenix, the VA used fraudulent record-keeping -- including an alleged secret list -- that covered up excessive waiting periods for veterans, some of whom died in the process.
    The VA has acknowledged 23 deaths nationwide due to delayed care. The VA's inspector general, Richard Griffin, told a Senate committee in recent weeks that his investigation so far had found a possible 17 deaths of veterans waiting for care in Phoenix, but he added that there was no evidence that excessive waiting was the reason.
    Griffin recommended that Shinseki "take immediate action" to "review and provide appropriate health care" to the 1,700 veterans identified in Phoenix as not being on a wait list.
    He also recommended that Shinseki initiate a nationwide review of waiting lists "to ensure that veterans are seen in an appropriate time, given their clinical condition."
    Shinseki finds himself in a firestorm
    VA pledges faster appointments
    The VA's troubled history
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    Default Re: Veterans Administration Scandal

    Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigns
    By Tom Cohen, Chelsea J. Carter and Ben Brumfield, CNN
    updated 12:49 PM EDT, Fri May 30, 2014
    Your video will begin momentarily.
    STORY HIGHLIGHTS

    NEW: President Obama accepts VA secretary's resignation
    NEW: Obama said Shinseki did not want to be a distraction
    Shinseki apologized to veterans, Congress and supporters

    Washington (CNN) -- In the end, even Eric Shinseki knew he had to go, President Barack Obama said Friday in announcing the resignation of his only Veterans Affairs secretary over a growing scandal involving sometimes deadly waits for care at VA hospitals.

    Obama went before reporters shortly after meeting with Shinseki at the White House and said the retired Army general told him that "the VA needs new leadership" to address the widespread problems chronicled in new reports this week, adding that Shinseki "does not want to be a distraction" to fixing the situation.
    Shinseki resigns amid VA scandal
    Shinseki: 'Total lack of integrity'
    Report: 42 VA centers under investigation

    "That was Ric's judgment on behalf of his fellow veterans, and I agree. We don't have time for distractions. We need to fix the problem," Obama said.

    Calls for Shinseki's resignation snowballed in recent days from across the political spectrum -- Republicans and Democrats, as well as veterans' advocacy groups -- because of the misconduct that gained prominence after CNN began reporting problems at VA facilities in November.

    Before meeting Obama, Shinseki announced a series of steps intended to address the VA problems, including the removal of senior leaders at the Phoenix VA hospital and elimination of performance awards for VA leaders in 2014.

    He also apologized to veterans and Congress, but declared: "This situation can be fixed."

    Shinseki then went to the White House to present Obama with findings from his internal audit of what was happening in the VA system, a document that effectively ended his job. He left after the meeting without comment.

    The new report found indications that many of the audited facilities had "questionable scheduling practices" that signaled a "systemic lack of integrity" within some VA health facilities.

    In announcing Shinseki's resignation, Obama said there was "a need for a change in culture" at veterans hospitals "and perhaps the VA as a whole" to make sure that problems and "bad news" don't get covered up, but get reported and fixed.

    He praised Shinseki's service as a soldier "who left part of himself on the battlefield," and a VA leader who helped increase the budget and services, whittle down a backlog of benefits claims and help homeless veterans.

    Read Obama's statement

    However, the findings of the internal VA report as well as a previous preliminary report by the VA inspector general revealed systemic problems that Obama called "totally unacceptable."

    He named a Shinseki deputy, Sloan Gibson, to temporarily assume the VA leadership until a new secretary gets appointed.

    Political leaders applauded the resignation Friday, but said new leadership must resolve the VA problems.

    "The denial of care to our veterans is a national disgrace, and it's fitting that the person who oversees the Department of Veterans Affairs has accepted responsibility for this growing scandal and resigned," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a statement.

    Sources allege secret VA waits lists in Phoenix

    In an interview taped Thursday and broadcast Friday on ABC, Obama promised "a serious conversation" with Shinseki "to see whether he thinks that he is prepared and has the capacity to take on the job of fixing it because I don't want any veteran to not be getting the kind of services they deserve."

    Facing mounting calls to resign, Shinseki on Friday spoke to representatives of the people particularly vulnerable to his agency's medical failings. He was the featured speaker at the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans' annual conference in Washington.

    Some veterans have died during long delays in medical care, and it has recently come to light that at least one hospital tied employee bonuses to patient wait times.

    Shinseki received a standing ovation at the beginning and end of his appearance. After touting improvements in delivery of services to homeless veterans, Shinseki said at the end that he wanted to talk about "the elephant in the room."

    The secretary said he was shocked by the inspector general's report, released Wednesday, on failings in the VA system, especially the prevalence of wait lists for veterans needing medical care.

    "That breach of integrity is irresponsible, it is indefensible and unacceptable to me," he said. "I said when this situation began weeks to months ago and I thought the problem was limited and isolated because I believed that. I no longer believe that. It is systemic."

    Shinseki, who has been VA chief for five years, said he was misled by others.

    "I was too trusting of some, and I accepted as accurate reports that I now know to have been misleading with regard to patient wait times," he said. "I can't explain the lack of integrity among some of the leaders of our health care facilities. This is something I rarely encounter during 38 years in uniform and so I will not defend it because it's indefensible, but I can take responsibility for it and I do."

    Among other changes announced: eliminating wait times as a way to evaluate supervisors' performance, accelerating administration of care to veterans and asking Congress to fill VA leadership vacancies quickly.

    In the latest accusation against the agency, U.S. Reps. Mike Doyle and Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania issued a statement saying 700 veterans had been placed on a primary care waiting list for doctor appointments at the Pittsburgh VA center, with some waiting since 2012.
    McCain: Time for Shinseki to move on
    Scathing report released on VA scandal
    Report: 1,700 vets left off VA wait list
    VA Whistleblower tells his story

    Late Thursday, a ranking Democratic congressman on the Veterans' Affairs Committee joined colleagues from both sides of the aisle to demand Shinseki throw in the towel.

    "Democrats and Republicans alike, in tandem with our Veteran Service Organizations and the millions of Americans who have served our nation, all want to get to the bottom of what exactly is broken with the VA system, and what we can do to fix it," Rep. Mike Michaud of Maine said in a statement.

    But Shinseki has become the focal point, and it is time for him to go, so progress can be made, he said.

    "The systemic failures in our VA system are inexcusable and must be fixed immediately so that this never happens again," he said.

    A number of Democratic senators -- many of them facing rough re-election battles this year -- have joined the bipartisan chorus urging the secretary to resign or the President to fire him.

    "The inspector general's preliminary report makes it clear that the systemic problems at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are so entrenched that they require new leadership to be fixed," said Mark Udall of Colorado, the first Senate Democrat to call for a change at the top.

    List of senators calling for Shinseki resignation

    Calls for criminal investigation

    Resignation may be just a prelude to the fallout to come.

    There have also been calls for a criminal investigation into at times deadly delays in care at Veterans Affairs hospitals.

    Obama was waiting for an internal audit he ordered from Shinseki on the growing scandal before deciding whom to hold accountable, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Thursday.

    Carney stopped short of saying Obama is standing by the secretary, pointing instead to the President's recent statement that Shinseki would likely not be interested in continuing to serve if he believed he let veterans down.

    The President found the report deeply troubling, and a White House official speaking on the condition of anonymity told CNN that Shinseki was on "thin ice" with Obama.

    Some lawmakers in Congress were incensed after this week's release of the preliminary inspector general's report that described a "systemic" practice of manipulating appointments and wait lists at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Phoenix.

    The VA inspector general reported that at least 1,700 military veterans waiting to see a doctor were never scheduled for an appointment or were placed on a waiting list at the Phoenix VA, raising the question of just how many more may have been "forgotten or lost" in the system.

    Breaking the scandal

    CNN reported exclusively last month that, according to sources, at least 40 American veterans died while waiting to be seen at the Phoenix VA. CNN also obtained an e-mail that an employee at a Wyoming clinic of the VA wrote saying that employees were instructed to "game the system" to make the clinic appear more efficient.

    Rep. Steve Israel of New York, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is among those calling for a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice.

    "I want to know if anybody at the VA doctored papers, engaged in a cover-up, withheld care from veterans," he told CNN, adding the demand in the form of a letter was hand delivered Thursday to Attorney General Eric Holder's office.

    "They need to be investigated. They need to be prosecuted. They need to be fired."

    Republican Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, made a similar demand of the Justice Department.

    "I think the facts are too many now for them to look the other way," he said.

    The Justice Department is reviewing the VA inspector general's report but has not formally opened an investigation, Peter Carr, an agency spokesman, has told CNN.

    The VA's troubled history

    Deaths acknowledged

    The VA has acknowledged 23 deaths nationwide due to delayed care. The VA's acting inspector general, Richard Griffin, told a Senate committee in recent weeks that his investigation so far had found a possible 17 deaths of veterans waiting for care in Phoenix.

    But he added that there was no evidence excessive waiting was the reason.

    Among the findings at the Phoenix VA, investigators determined that one consequence of manipulating appointments for the veterans was understating patient wait times, a factor considered in VA employee bonuses and raises, the report said.

    Miller believes the actions may be in part about money for "VA bureaucrats."

    "Why else would somebody work so hard to manipulate the lists?" Miller said.

    The issue of patient wait times is not an overall performance factor ordered by the VA, Dr. Thomas Lynch, the VA's assistant deputy undersecretary for clinical operations, told Miller's committee.

    The factors tied to bonuses and raises are decided by each VA network, Lynch said.

    The VA inspector general's report did not offer any further details about financial incentives.

    Shinseki finds himself in a firestorm

    Shinseki says he's 'not waiting'

    In an opinion piece published Thursday in USA Today, Shinseki wrote that he's "not waiting to set things straight."

    "I immediately directed the Veterans Health Administration ... to contact each of the 1,700 veterans in Phoenix waiting for primary care appointments in order to bring them the care they need and deserve," Shinseki wrote.

    Shinseki reiterated other steps he's taken, including ordering a "nationwide audit of all other major VA health care facilities to ensure understanding of, and compliance with, our appointment policy."

    Some question whether removing Shinseki would address the core problems at the VA or simply serve as a distraction for now.

    "Is him resigning going to get us to the bottom of the problem? Is it going to help us find out what's really going on?" asked House Speaker John Boehner, the chamber's top Republican, adding that his answer so far was "no."

    House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi also warned against targeting only Shinseki.

    She, too, has joined the push for a criminal investigation of the VA problems, saying "certainly what was done was dishonest."
    Libertatem Prius!


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    Default Re: Veterans Administration Scandal

    Ariz. whistle-blowers, vet advocates laud Shinseki exit



    CONNECTTWEETLINKEDINCOMMENTEMAILMORE

    PHOENIX — Arizona whistle-blowers, veterans and their advocates welcomed the departure Friday of embattled VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, but said reform at the Department of Veterans Affairs must include changes in culture not just leadership.
    President Barack Obama praised Shinseki as a dedicated American even as he announced the general's resignation following a national furor over delays in care for military veterans, and investigations showing VA health care facilities nationwide have for years falsified wait-time records.
    It was reported that during a speech minutes before his resignation was announced, Shinseki said he had removed top administrators at the Phoenix VA Health Care System. However, it could not be confirmed if anyone was removed, or whether they were fired or allowed to retire.
    STORY: Embattled VA chief Shinseki resigns
    STORY: Congress shifts focus to legislative fixes to VA crisis
    The Arizona Republic confirmed Susan Bowers, director of the VA's Southwest Regional Heath Care Network covering Arizona, New Mexico and west Texas, also abruptly left her job. Jean Shafer, a spokeswoman, said Bowers had announced plans to retire before the national scandal erupted, but stepped down Thursday — a month earlier than planned.
    Shafer said Bowers, a 37-year VA employee, did not say whether she had been asked to leave, but issued a brief statement: "It has been an honor and a privilege to serve this nation's veterans."
    The leadership changes came two days after the VA Office of Inspector General issued a damning report that said veterans in Phoenix were kept off wait lists for care, record-keeping was falsified and some patients suffered adverse medical consequences. The report said allegations of similar misconduct are under investigation at 41 other VA facilities nationwide.
    Sam Foote, the former VA physician who started the controversy by blowing the whistle on practices at Phoenix VA Health Care System, said he believes Shinseki was an honorable government official who failed to get control of a rogue bureaucracy.
    "He is a great guy who gave great service to his country," Foote said, "but I think he got betrayed by his uppper-level staff, and he just got too far behind the eight-ball."
    Foote said he is not familiar with Sloan Gibson, who was promoted by Obama as the interim VA secretary, and does not know enough about the politics and personnel to say who could or should replace Shinseki.
    Asked if there is a moral to the saga, Foote said: "It used to be that cheaters never prosper. Maybe we're going back to yesteryear when cheaters don't prosper, again."
    Rick Romley, a former Maricopa County attorney who earned a Purple Heart in Vietnam and served as special adviser to the VA secretary in 2005-06, said he has mixed feelings about Shineski's departure.
    "I really think he's an honorable individual who cares deeply for veterans, and I question bringing in someone new when it'll take time to get up to speed," Romley said. "But when I read the interim IG report, my God, it was much worse than even I knew. ...I think the resignation was appropriate. I just don't think he had a handle on things."
    Romley said he believes fixing the Department of Veterans Affairs will require a complete overhaul, not just a new boss. "My gut reaction is we need to make a change," he added. "I don't know what the right answer is, but I think they should put everything on the table."
    Romley said the Obama administration should work with Congress to create a bipartisan commission that evaluates the level of benefits provided to veterans, the use of private-care physicians and all other aspects of the VA mission. "You need to take a step backward, go to 30,000 feet, and ask a fundamental question: Is this the best model to meet today's needs?"

    Sally Eliano, a San Tan Valley resident who told how her father-in-law, Thomas Breen, died late last year after delays in care at the Phoenix VA Medical Center, said Shinseki's resignation is too little, too late. She said the secretary and the president knew the VA system was failing, but tried to cover it up until the Arizona controversy blew up.
    "I think this is all bogus," Eliano added. "He (Shinseki) belongs in jail. No, I'm not pleased. As we speak, people are still dying."
    Scottsdale resident and Navy veteran Michael Platt, 66, who served in the Vietnam War, said Shinseki had ample time to assess the organization's problems since he was sworn in as the seventh secretary of the VA in 2009.
    "He's part of it. He knew what's going on," Platt said. "This is an intelligent man. How long would it take him to figure out what's going on there? Something was wrong there. How can they hide that much information from him? That's not possible."
    Shinseki's resignation did not come as a surprise to Scottsdale resident and Navy veteran David Mellor, 83, who served during the Korean War.
    "Someone has to go. I mean, we know that. I don't know whether we've done the right thing or not. It's kind of fast. I think more people should be looked into, but he's probably one of them," Mellor said.
    The VA's top leaders clearly do not have a full understanding of the challenges vets face to get service, he said. Even simple billing matters are difficult.
    "Someone definitely has dropped the ball," Mellor said.
    Whittmann resident and Navy veteran Dennis Huff, 66, who served in the Vietnam War, agreed Shinseki needed to step down.
    "There was so much pressure on him," he said. The job was probably bigger than Shinseki expected when he took the helm, he said.
    Veterans' advocacy groups were quick to support the change in leadership.
    "It is not the solution, yet it is a beginning," said Daniel M. Dellinger, national commander of the American Legion.
    "But it was never just about a few of the top leaders. The solution is to weed out the incompetence and corruption within the VHA and the VBA, so the dedicated employees can continue to perform admirably on behalf of our nation's veterans," Dellinger said in reference to the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration.

    The American Legion was one of the first major veterans organization to call for the resignations of the top three officials at VA following revelations of secret patient waiting lists, inadequate care, and excessive and undeserved bonuses to managers in Phoenix and at dozens of VA medical centers throughout the country.
    Undersecretary for Health Robert Petzel resigned on May 16. No announcement has yet been made about the other official, Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey.
    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America viewed Shinseki's resignation as an opportunity for new management, new oversight and new energy, said CEO Paul Rieckhoff.
    "President Obama now has the opportunity and a moral obligation to step up and demonstrate his own leadership and bring under control a deep systemic element of incompetence and corruption that clearly exists in the VA," Rieckhoff said in a statement.
    "Regardless of the long history of troubles at the VA, this crisis has occurred under his watch, and America's vets are looking to the commander in chief to act quickly. President Obama must move now to appoint an energetic secretary who is unafraid to make bold changes and work quickly and aggressively to change the VA system," he said.
    The organization urged Obama to appoint an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran to lead a turnaround.
    Shinseki is an American patriot whose integrity and commitment to duty is above reproach, however, his resignation was appropriate, said William A. Thien, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
    "We support his decision to resign, because the outside calls for his resignation were overshadowing the crisis in health care issues veterans face, and that is what's most important," Thien said.
    New leaders must accept the difficult challenge of changing the VA from within, he said.
    "The new secretary will inherit a host of ongoing challenges, but he or she must immediately identify and fix what's broken, to hold people accountable to the maximum extent of the law, and to do whatever is necessary to help restore the full faith and confidence of veterans in their VA," Thien said.
    "Members of Congress have an equal responsibility to put their individual political agendas aside and do what they were elected to do," he said.
    Libertatem Prius!


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    Creepy Ass Cracka & Site Owner Ryan Ruck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Veterans Administration Scandal


    Al Qaeda Terrorists At Guantanamo Treated Better Than Our Vets

    May 23, 2014

    President Obama finally addressed the nation Wednesday about the growing scandal at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. After meeting with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki he pledged to hold folks accountable.

    Thanks, Mr. President.

    By now most American have heard about the VA’s infamous patient “secret wait lists” which reportedly contributed to the deaths of up to 40 veterans in the Phoenix area alone. Those patriots were American heroes who served our country proudly. Yet they were left to die waiting to see a doctor.

    Here’s another secret the White House doesn’t want you to know about the VA. Al Qaeda detainees get better medical treatment than our veterans.

    Say what?

    Yes, it’s true. I know because I served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005-2009 and visited Guantanamo Bay Naval Base over 30 times during those years.

    Despite the fact that Al Qaeda terrorists carried out the Sept. 11 terror attacks, killing 3,000 people in America, the admitted co-conspirators and their roughly 150 fellow jihadists at Gitmo have approximately 100 doctors, nurses and health care personnel assigned to them.

    Doctors and medical personnel are at their beck and call. Got a cold, a fever, a toothache, a tumor, chest or back pain, mental health issues, PTSD? No problem, come right on in. Military doctors are waiting to see you.

    The VA and Gitmo eligible patient-to-health care provider ratios speak volumes.

    While the Gitmo ratio is 1.5 to 1, for America’s 9 million veterans receiving VA health care and 267,930 VA employees, the ratio is 35 to 1.


    But beyond the Gitmo numbers, the situation at the VA is also a bright, shining example of misguided priorities and terrible mismanagement.

    In late 2008, when Obama was president-elect, he and his staff were warned not to trust the wait times reported by VA health care facilities. But instead of fixing the problem, their focus was closing Guantanamo and improving the comfort of detainees. Even though they already lived under some of the best prison conditions ever seen.

    While some who see “2008” may reflexively say, “blame Bush, not Obama” the fact is that the VA’s health system has been fatally flawed for years, regardless of who has been the president.

    The VA is a classic example of big government gone wild. It is America’s second largest cabinet agency after the Defense Department. Since civil service promotions are traditionally based more on seniority than performance, and it’s near impossible to fire anyone, there’s a punch-the-clock mentality that’s pervasive. Not surprisingly, there's little to no sense of urgency. So to instill incentives, the VA shells out high salaries and bonuses, deserved or not.

    According to a Fox News report, Phoenix VA hospital paid staff up to $357,000 for doctor executives and $147,000 for nursing staff. On average, doctors and nurses in Phoenix make just over half those figures.

    Meanwhile, the gardening budget at Phoenix VA hospital was over $180,000 in 2013. The facility also spent $211,000 on interior design over the past three years.

    If any government entity ever needed a complete overhaul, it’s the VA. If it were in the private sector, it would have been shuttered long ago.

    Today’s VA has near zero accountability, while labor unions fight to protect employees who aren't doing their jobs. Shinseki and his senior staff should be the first to go.

    President Obama needs to refocus his priorities. There must be less time, effort and energy caring for Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees at Gitmo and much more attention put on caring for America's veterans.

    Our veterans have served the nation proudly. In many cases they were gravely wounded during their service and now will require a lifetime of medical support. Every one of them deserves better.

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    Navy Veteran Loses His Nose Waiting For Treatment In Phoenix

    September 5, 2014

    Edward Laird is one of the faces behind the VA scandal -- a face he says is disfigured because he had to wait so long for treatment.

    The 76-year-old Navy veteran waited two and a half years to get a biopsy for a spot on his nose. And when the VA finally carried out the procedure that his doctor had ordered, the cancer had spread and most of his nose had to be removed.

    Laird sought treatment at the Phoenix VA hospital, the facility at the heart of a scandal uncovered by CNN of secret waiting lists and altered records that left veterans untreated, even as some died.

    The Inspector General of the VA released a scathing report last week on care of veterans at the Phoenix VA hospital, which could be just the beginning of a nationwide federal review of the Veterans Health System.

    A physician at the Phoenix VA confirmed to CNN that he sent Laird to the VA's dermatology clinic repeatedly to get a biopsy of his nose, but the biopsy was repeatedly delayed.

    Laird said 70% of his nose was removed to fight the cancer that spread as he waited for care.

    After complaining about the delay, Laird received a letter from the then-interim director of the Phoenix VA that said, "I regret that you are dissatisfied with the care. The dermatologist that you saw did not identify any of the signs of a reoccurrence," referring to the spread of cancer.

    Today, Laird uses an ice cream stick to keep his right nostril open.

    Despite long wait times at the VA, Laird said he remains proud of his military service and the military brothers and sisters he meets when he goes to the Phoenix VA.

    "There's always lines at the VA but when you go, there you feel like you're walking along with a bunch of champions," Laird said. "It'll jerk a tear from you sometimes."

    The report released last week by the VA's Office of Inspector General found that 28 veterans had "clinically significant delays" in care at the Phoenix VA, six of whom died.

    But the Inspector General report stopped short of blaming the deaths on wait times, stating:

    "While the case reviews in this report document poor quality of care, we are unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely quality care caused the deaths of these veterans."

    Laird's case is not directly described in the report.

    Investigators did confirm in the report that schedulers at the Phoenix VA manipulated appointment data to hide how long patients were waiting for care.

    The latest data released by the VA shows more than 630,000 patients throughout the nation continue to wait longer than 30 days for appointments. More than 9,000 veterans are waiting this long for appointments at the Phoenix VA.

    President Barack Obama pledged last week at the American Legion conference in North Carolina to "get to the bottom of these problems," calling them, "outrageous and inexcusable."

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    Veteran Dies After 4-Year Fight With The VA

    December 30, 2014

    An East Texas widow says her Air Force veteran husband died last week of Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as ALS, after 4 years of trying to convince the Veteran Affairs (VA) that he was sick.

    Janie Michels said her husband, Bradley Michels, would do it all over again, if given the chance.

    “He absolutely loved his country. He said it was important to fight for our rights and our freedoms.” said Janie.

    Bradley served in the Air Force from 1986 to 1996. He was stationed in South Korea, Germany and Arizona. His tour ended in 1996, but his wife noticed changes in his health.

    “I noticed his health decline right after he got out of the military…right after he cleaned up after Desert Storm,” recalls Janie. “He started having neurological problems…he had a slurred voice sometimes, and he started having cramps in the balls of his feet that went into his knee and into his thigh.”

    Janie believed that these symptoms pointed to ALS. In 2010, they filed for disability benefits with the VA. The claim was denied twice. Their most recent appeal was filed a few months ago.

    Janie asked for ALS testing repeatedly, but Bradley's doctor said no.

    “In the beginning, he said he didn't know what was wrong,” said Janie. “After a lot of pushing, he said it was not ALS and that it was psychosomatic.”

    The Michels spent four years filing paperwork, going to doctor visits, and making calls to the VA.

    Then, three weeks ago, a neurologist agreed to test Bradley for ALS. The test came back positive, but his claim for benefits remained denied.

    Even with this new information and a diagnosis, the results were not instant. Janie said that she can rarely reach anyone directly at the VA, but she has received a great amount of help from the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC), an advocacy agency for veterans.

    Jim Richman, Director of Claims Representation and Counsel at TVC, told us that ALS has been linked to military service.

    “ALS is a presumptive condition for any veteran,” said Richman. “Because they have determined medically that there's a much higher instance rate in vets than in the society at large.”

    This news comes too late for a 47-year-old father and husband to hear. Bradley died last week while waiting for the notification that the benefits for himself and his family would be approved.

    “He died without the peace of knowing that we were going to be ok.” said Janie.

    Richman says he has seen many veterans go through this long process.

    “The system is unnecessarily complex and sometimes chasing down specific pieces of evidence is quite time consuming.” said Richman.

    KLTV tried contact the VA about the status of Bradley's claim, but the toll free number led to multiple automated prompts that did not direct to a live person.

    For now, Janie and her three dependent children are left to wait with only their memories and a continuing fight.

    “We shouldn't have to fight anymore,” said Janie. “This is just wrong. We have no way to pay rent and utilities, no way to buy groceries.”

    Bradley had a wish for his body to be donated to for ALS research after his death. Janie kept that wish and Bradley's remains are currently with the University of Texas Southwest in Dallas.

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    4 Quit After Oklahoma Veteran With Maggots In Wound Dies

    December 4, 2016

    Four staff members have resigned from a southeastern Oklahoma veterans facility rather than face the possibility of getting fired, after a resident was found to have maggots in a wound.

    Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs executive director Myles Deering said the maggots were discovered while the patient was alive at the facility in Talihina, about 130 miles southeast of Tulsa. Deering said the maggots were not the cause of his death.

    Deering said the veteran came to the center with an infection and died of sepsis, the Tulsa World reported.

    The agency said a physician's assistant and three nurses, including the director of nursing, resigned after an investigation was conducted. Spokesman Shane Faulkner said all four chose to resign before the termination process began.

    The incident was reported to the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the district attorney for LeFlore and Latimer counties to determine if any charges should be filed.

    Raymie Parker identified the late veteran as his father, Owen Reese Peterson. He died Oct. 3 at age 73.

    "During the 21 days I was there ... I pled with the medical staff, the senior medical staff, to increase his meds so his bandages could be changed," Parker said. "I was met with a stonewall for much of that time."

    Deering said the agency has been considering moving from the nearly 100-year-old facility, because fixing the existing building would take millions of dollars. Sen. Frank Simpson said the facility was also faced with the inability to find and retain staff.

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    VA Hospital Left Deceased Veteran In Shower Room For 9 Hours, Report Finds

    December 11, 2016

    An internal report blames staffers at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Florida for leaving the body of a deceased veteran to decompose in a shower for nine hours and then trying to cover it up.

    The 24-page report concluded that hospice staffers at the Bay Pines VA hospital failed to provide appropriate post-mortem care to the veteran’s body, Fox 13 Tampa reports.

    The report found hospice staff put the veteran’s body in a hallway and left it there for an unspecified time, the station reported. Staff then put the veteran’s body in the shower room and did not “check on the status of the decedent…for over nine hours.”

    The report also found that a staff member then “falsely documented” the incident, Fox 13 reported.

    The investigative report said that leaving the body unattended for so long increased the chance of decomposition.

    "The report details a total failure on the part of the Department of Veterans Affairs and an urgent need for greater accountability," Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., told the station. "Unsurprisingly, not a single VA employee has been fired following this incident, despite a clear lack of concern and respect for the veteran. The men and women who sacrificed on behalf of our nation deserve better."

    The unnamed veteran died in February after spending time in hospice care.

    The hospital's Administrative Investigation Board ordered retraining for staff.

    Hospital spokesman Jason Dangel told the Tampa Bay Times hospital officials view what happened as unacceptable.

    Click for more from Fox 13 Tampa.

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    Man Sets Self Ablaze At Georgia State Capitol

    June 26, 2018

    A crazy scene unfolded Tuesday morning as a man set himself on fire on the grounds of the state capitol as a press conference was being held detailing the new distracted driving laws to take effect on July 1.

    The Georgia State Patrol was holding the press conference and when Natalie Dale, media relations liaison for GDOT was speaking, several loud, banging noises were heard.

    A number of law enforcement officers were on hand behind her and when they heard the banging noises, they cleared the press conference and began pursuit.

    According to the Georgia Dept. of Public Safety, officers then discovered that a veteran had set himself ablaze by using fireworks because he was upset with the treatment he was receiving at the VA hospital.

    The Georgia State Patrol said 58-year-old John Michael Watts pulled onto Washinton Street on the west side of the Capitol building, exited his vehicle and approached the west entrance of the building wearing a vest lined with fireworks and flammable devices. He doused himself with a flammable liquid and lit the fireworks.

    According to the GSP, a Georgia State Patrol trooper witnessed the event and immediately put the flames out with a fire extinguisher. The man was transported to Grady Hospital. He was alert and breathing before he was transported, and he identified himself as an Air Force veteran and was trying to bring attention to the Veteran's Administration system.

    The Department of Veteran's Affairs sent CBS46 the following statement:

    While we can’t comment on the specifics of this Veteran’s case due to patient privacy laws, the department is ensuring he receives the VA care that he needs.

    Several roads are blocked off around the area as police investigate. They're asking people to avoid the area, if possible. The Capitol and Judiciary Buildings have been evacuated while Georgia Bureau of Investigations agents and Atlanta police bomb technicians are on scene evaluating the vehicle as a precaution.

    The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Atlanta Office has also responded to the event at the Georgia State Capitol Building.

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    The most recent episode of SEAL Team dealt with this very issue.

    VA Struggles to Curb 'Parking Lot' Suicides at Its Own Facilities

    April 11, 2019

    The VA's top health care official is asking Americans for help in addressing the crisis of veteran suicides.

    "I wish it was as simple as me saying I could do more patrols in a parking lot that would stop this," Dr. Richard Stone, the executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, said Wednesday of the department efforts to curb veteran suicides and suicide attempts that often occur at its own facilities.

    Stone made the remark in response to questions from the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee about three recent suicides: two over the weekend at Georgia VA facilities and one Tuesday at an Austin, Texas, VA clinic.

    Stone told the Committee that more than 260 suicide attempts had been recorded at VA facilities. He did not give a time period for when the attempts were made, but said VA staff had intervened in about 240 of them and were able to save lives.

    That left about 20 where the veteran did not ask for help, or the intervention was unsuccessful, he said. Between October 2017 and November 2018, 19 veterans died by suicide on the grounds of VA medical facilities, according to a Washington Post report.

    Often, the veteran will leave a note saying "I've come here to the [VA] campus because I know you'll take care of me and I know you'll take care of my family," Stone told the Committee.

    To curb what he called the "epidemic" of about 20 veteran suicides daily, the nation as a whole must ask itself where society had failed these veterans -- a question without a simple answer, Stone said.

    One possible way was to get more Americans involved, he added.

    "If you've got a cellphone in your hand, take that cell phone out and put in the following number: 1-800-273-8255."

    That's the Veterans Crisis Line manned 24-7 by specially-trained responders.

    It's not just for veterans, but for anyone who may know a veteran they believe may be in crisis, he said.

    "Most lay people say, 'I don't know what to do'" in a situation where they may know of a veteran having thoughts of suicide, he said, but reaching out and asking for advice "could stop a suicide and save a life."

    When asked by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, the ranking member on the Committee, what Congress could do to help, Stone suggested changing the law that makes Guard and Reserve members who were never activated ineligible for VA care.

    Of the estimated 20 veteran suicides daily on average, about 14 are among veterans who have never been in contact with the VA, Stone said. Of those 14, about three are Guard and Reserve members who were never activated, he said.

    Currently, "they aren't a veteran," Stone said, but "if we can take and extend emergency services to [those with] other than honorable discharges, we sure ought to be able to offer those services to never-activated Guardsmen and Reservists," Stone said.

    The first of the three recent suicides at VA facilities occurred last Friday in the parking lot of the Carl Vinson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Dublin, Georgia, the VA said.

    The second on Saturday reportedly involved a 68-year-old veteran who shot himself outside the Atlanta VA Medical Center, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. On Tuesday, a veteran shot himself in the waiting room of the Austin, Texas, VA clinic, KXXV reported.

    Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, cited the three suicides in his opening remarks at the hearing Wednesday.

    "I am in touch with the VA as investigations into each incident are ongoing, but these are tragedies that we hear about far too often," he said in a prepared statement.

    "While we have taken a number of steps to address and prevent veteran suicide, this weekend's tragic deaths clearly indicate that we must do better," Isakson said.

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