Another Day, Another Series of Horrific Stories Out of VA Facilities

by Jim Geraghty

From the final Morning Jolt of the week:

Another Day, Another Series of Horrific Stories Out of VA Facilities

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki apparently is going to institute a new lengthy waiting period before action to address the problem of lengthy waiting periods.

We’ve lost patience over your losing patients, Mr. Secretary.

Meanwhile, I usually scoff at the perennial “rogue low-level employees in Cincinnati” excuse, but every once in a while, that blind squirrel finds an acorn.

The Veterans Affairs Medical Center of Cincinnati settled 10 wrongful death claims between 2001-2012 for a total of $1.57 million, including several cases for missed diagnoses and “faulty care.” The VA, under increased scrutiny for possible falsified wait time information, settled more than 1,000 such cases for more than $200 million nationally . . . 

Data compiled by CIR shows there were several deaths linked to misdiagnosis or a “failure to treat,” the finding on Harvey’s claim. According to the heavily redacted original paperwork filed by his wife, Harvey died from a heart attack while staying at the VA hospital in Corryville in March 2008 at the age of 60. The Enquirer identified Harvey through an extensive search of public records, although Harvey’s widow or family could not be located after an exhaustive search. But the original claim document states in a handwritten note that “the Cincinnati VA did not take care of him on March 31, 2008 and he had a heart attack and died.”

Whistleblowers keep coming forward:

Officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs are “deeply concerned” by a whistleblower’s accusations but declined to comment further on allegations that the woman was punished for refusing to falsify wait times at the Fort Collins VA clinic.

“We are deeply concerned by the allegations raised by a Cheyenne VA employee over alleged whistleblower retaliation,” the VA statement reads. “We cannot discuss the majority of her allegations, due to the ongoing (Office of the Inspector General) investigation. We are also not at liberty to discuss personnel or disciplinary issues.”

The VA sent the statement Wednesday evening in response to a Sunday request from the Coloradoan.

A whistleblower complaint filed by Lisa Lee led to a federal investigation that found multiple problems with the Fort Collins VA clinic, including improper appointment scheduling that in effect hid patient wait times while making it seem patients were seen close to when they wanted.

Lee, a former scheduler with the Fort Collins VA clinic and now on active duty with the U.S. Navy, told the Coloradoan she believes she was targeted because she refused to hide patient wait times.

They’re brave, since past whistleblowers describe all kinds of retaliation.

And the complaints are jaw-dropping:

[Desert Storm Veteran Paul] Baker said he has had treatments at several VA hospitals across the country but his worst experiences have been at the Audie Murphy VA hospital in San Antonio, where he’s been forced to wait several months for a simple procedure.

“I’ve waited up to four months to get an appointment to see a doctor and another three months to get a test done,” Baker said. “Then you got to wait another four months to get the results back to see the doctor just to discuss what the procedure is going to be.”

With his health deteriorating, Baker has been fighting to get his benefits increased, waiting three years just to get a hearing to make his case.

Don’t worry, America. The U.S. Senate is on the case!

Nah, just kidding. The VA reform and accountability bill passed the U.S. House with 390 votes earlier this week. And then . . . 

Although Reid called the House bill “not unreasonable,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., blocked Rubio’s request for immediate action. Instead, Sanders, chairman of the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, said he would hold a hearing within a few weeks.

Happy Memorial Day, huh?

Uniting and electing that Republican-controlled Senate sure looks good right now, doesn’t it?