By Jim Emerson, staff writer
The Veteran’s Administration (VA) “waiting list” scandal and allegations of a cover-up have tarnished the reputation of an agency that was created to help America’s veterans. The Phoenix VA hospital is at the eye of the storm, engaging in a behavior pattern of falsifying medical records in order to conceal lengthy delays in the keeping of patient appointments. To date four other VA facilities are also under investigation. Around the country numerous whistle-blowers are speaking up exposing an institutional behavior of hospital mangers putting bonuses before health care. (1)
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has ordered a nationwide review of clinics at VA Medical Centers across the country in order to assess veterans’ access to care. Of course, Shinseki ordered the review only because the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee had grown tired of being stonewalled by VA leadership and issued a subpoena in an attempt to force the VA into providing information relating to the wait list scandal. Clearly, VA senior leadership was playing a “wait list” game with Congress just as their clinics had been with patients. Being an election year this scandal is here to stay so both sides of the aisle are calling for action. After all, the American people sympathize with victims of bureaucratic abuse, especially when those victims have served in the military.
VA acting Inspector General Richard J. Griffin testified before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee this week, promising to complete an “exhaustive review” of VA practices by August. The review will be performed by Office of the Inspector General (OIG) criminal investigators, federal prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona and officials from the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department in Washington. The purpose of the review is to determine if criminal activity took place in VA hospitals, clinics or in the VA itself. (2) Involvement of the OIG became necessary when Griffin announced that “The Department of Justice does not intend to investigate the deaths of 40 veterans who were placed on a secret waiting list at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Arizona any time soon.” (3)
Testifying before the Senate Veterans Affairs committee, Secretary Shinseki told Committee members that the VA health care system is “a good system.” For many it may be, but the mistreatment of service members by VA hospitals and clinics has begun to snowball into a massive scandal.
Former 4 star general Shinseki should be “mad as hell.” The American public is once again witness to what can occur when the head of the Army is a social engineer rather than a warrior. Unless Shinseki makes an example of those VA medical mangers responsible for the death of at least 40 service members he will be known forever as a dismal four star failure.