The VA's Problems Won't Go Away Quickly

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The VA's Problems Won't Go Away Quickly
| published July 24, 2014 |

By Earl Perkins
Thursday Review features editor

When a worm burrows into an apple, you don't realize there's a major problem until it's ruined, and this scenario could be used as an analogy with the Department of Veterans Affairs scandal.

We're a couple months into a nationwide investigation, and it seems that more than 700 facilities are battling to see which can provide the least or shoddiest medical care to veterans, according to The Montgomery Advertiser.

Administrators have been allowed to falsify records and abuse the system in pursuit of hefty bonuses, but a doctor at Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System in Montgomery, Alabama has evidently falsified the records of more than 1,200 pulmonary patients.

Numerous sources confirmed that wait times for veterans were falsified, thus allowing vets to languish for months and sometimes years without medical care—with some even dying. That doctor, who was not named at the time, evidently copied old information onto new patient charts. Maybe he did that to save time. Maybe he's a terrible doctor. Who knows?

Or maybe the government is perfectly happy with what he's done, because he's still employed as a doctor at the local VA in Montgomery.

Everyone involved in this abomination keeps saying "we're not sure if this endangered patient care," which sounds like they're sweeping everything under the rug and hoping for the best. These veterans put their lives on the line for America, and now they can't even see a doctor because secretaries are told to make paperwork disappear.

If you have a dead relative, or if your friends are dying because they didn't receive proper care in a timely fashion, then the government is just sorry for your bad luck. At least out in Phoenix almost everybody agrees 40 veterans died awaiting appointments.

The VA's Office of Inspector General, which is supposed to monitor the facilities, can't determine if patients were harmed or not. Maybe veterans need to visit civilian doctors so we can determine what's really happening.

Supervisors, inspectors and oversight personnel have been testifying before Congress, acting shocked and appalled that egregious acts have occurred. Then you have whistleblowers confirming that not only have these horrid actions happened for years, but administrators choreographed events.

There are people serving decades in prison for stealing a few loaves of bread, but truly bad people at VA are not being fired or prosecuted. In fact, they were passing inspections and receiving hefty bonuses until the recent scandals.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki was forced to resign because the attention was making the administration look bad. But Shinseki didn't create secret waiting lists to bypass the computer system. He didn't tell 700 facilities to duplicate these idiotic actions. He didn't command doctors to provide substandard care, and he certainly wasn't hiding patient records in filing cabinets.

However, it's like when your football team has a record of 0-10-1—the head man is going to get the ax, and that’s the head coach. Shinseki deserved to get fired because he was the one in charge when the accusations were publicized.

The supervisors who created this system need to be dealt with harshly, and they should never be allowed to work in the health-care field again. Doctors who falsify patient records also don't need positions of responsibility. Some probably need to be incarcerated. They have endangered lives, cost lives, defrauded taxpayers, and no doubt committed numerous other terrible acts which have not yet come to light.

Richard Griffin, acting inspector general of the VA, recently told Congress that the bad apples need to be jailed. Firings and possible criminal prosecution of supervisors at these facilities is the only way for the agency to turn things around, he said.

Related Thursday Review articles:

A Look Inside the VA’s Culture of Neglect; Earl Perkins; Thursday Review; July 1, 2014.

Truth and Lies at the Veterans Administration; Earl Perkins; Thursday Review; June 14, 2014.