The painful abuse, toxic neglect, and likely criminal misconduct at VA hospitals grew more outrageous on Wednesday evening. Members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee learned that 42 VA facilities now are under investigation for ignoring and mistreating their patients, sometimes fatally. Amazingly, VA personnel have been paid extra despite such malpractice.
At Phoenix’s now-notorious VA hospital, the department’s inspector general concluded, a “convoluted scheduling process” barred some 1,700 veterans from doctors’ offices. While Phoenix hospital authorities claimed that vets waited just 24 days for their first appointments with primary-care physicians, the IG surveyed 226 vets whose average wait was 115 days, or nearly four months. At least 40 veterans dropped dead while awaiting medical care.
Notwithstanding such horrific abuse of America’s military heroes, the VA employees behind this carnage remain employed. Even more maddening are the financial bonuses
that VA staffers have received, as veterans suffered like abandoned dogs. A May 9 American Legion report
titled “It’s Not Just Phoenix” should enrage citizens and taxpayers alike:
• Employees at Fayetteville, N.C.’s VA hospital failed to conduct follow-up suicide-prevention therapy for high-risk patients 90 percent of the time. A December 2012 audit found the facility “non-compliant” as regards dental-clinic safety and the cleanliness of patient-care spaces. Also, 56 percent of the time, doctors failed to review patients’ medication information, contributing to misdiagnosis complaints. Regardless of this record, hospital director Elizabeth Goolsby scored a 2012 performance bonus of $7,604.
• The Dayton, Ohio, VA hospital’s dental clinic maintained unsanitary conditions for 18 years. Nine of its patients consequently contracted Hepatitis B or C. Nonetheless, medical-center director Guy Richardson won a promotion and an $11,874 bonus.
• In spite of specific complaints by the American Legion, ongoing management lapses, and a 2011 Legionnaire’s-disease outbreak that sickened 20 veterans and killed six others, Pittsburgh VA-hospital chief Terry Gerigk Wolf earned her $179,700 base salary, a perfect performance review, and a bonus that year of $12,924. As the August 23, 2013, Washington Examiner further detailed, Wolf’s boss, regional director Michael Moreland, gleaned a 2011 bonus of $15,619.
• The disability-claims backlog doubled between 2010 and 2011 in Philadelphia’s regional VA office. Still, its director, Thomas Lastowka, secured a 2011 bonus of $23,000.
• St. Louis’s VA facility has exposed some 1,800 veterans to HIV and hepatitis, thanks to dirty dental equipment. Patient-safety problems, including wrongful deaths, have plagued this site. So what? Between 2009 and 2013, hospital director RimaAnn Nelson took home bonuses of almost $25,000.