Well-Worn Scandal Spin in Response to VA Problem From Hell

From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Obama Offers Well-Worn Scandal Spin in Response to VA Problem From Hell

I could spend all day dissecting President Obama’s depressingly predictable comments about the VA scandal. Let’s aim for the short version.

Begin with the president’s claim that he — and we — need to wait until until VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors complete their respective reports. Contending that there’s some doubt about whether there was falsification of records — when 26 VA facilities now face allegations — is credulous to the point of willful blindness.

“I was a little caught off guard by what apparently is a disconnect by what’s happening out here in the country and what the president is talking about,” [CNN Correspondent Drew] Griffin, [who has been covering the VA scandal in Phoenix] said following Obama’s statement.

He added that Government Accountability Office reports already lay out the problems of dangerous patient backlogs at VA facilities, and no further studies are necessary.

Griffin said the veterans he talked to wanted more direct action by the president. “I was a little confused by the president’s remarks today,” he added.

Then Obama said, “We launched an all-out war on the disability claims backlog. And in just the past year alone, we’ve slashed that backlog by half.”

Mr. President, one of the key accusations in this scandal is that the books are cooked, so the accuracy of the figures you cite to support your claim are in dispute. Obama’s ignoring this means A) he’s willing to claim that allegedly falsified records are true to save his own butt or B) he really hasn’t followed this story at all, and doesn’t even know what the core accusations are:

Dr. Sam Foote just retired after spending 24 years with the VA system in Phoenix. The veteran doctor told CNN in an exclusive interview that the Phoenix VA works off two lists for patient appointments:

There’s an “official” list that’s shared with officials in Washington and shows the VA has been providing timely appointments, which Foote calls a sham list. And then there’s the real list that’s hidden from outsiders, where wait times can last more than a year.

“The scheme was deliberately put in place to avoid the VA’s own internal rules,” said Foote in Phoenix. “They developed the secret waiting list,” said Foote, a respected local physician.

The VA requires its hospitals to provide care to patients in a timely manner, typically within 14 to 30 days, Foote said.

According to Foote, the elaborate scheme in Phoenix involved shredding evidence to hide the long list of veterans waiting for appointments and care. Officials at the VA, Foote says, instructed their staff to not actually make doctor’s appointments for veterans within the computer system.

Finally, Obama declared, “Nobody cares more about our veterans than Eric Shinseki.” The performance of his department offers mounting evidence to the contrary:

[House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller] noted that several cases of preventable deaths at VA facilities have been tied to mismanagement — at VA facilities in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Columbia, S.C., August[a], Ga., and elsewhere. The VA’s inspector general has linked VA patient care problems to widespread mismanagement, but nonpartisan investigations by the Government Accountability Office have found that often there is no link between a person’s bonus and good performance.

In his own investigation, Miller found at least 20 “preventable veteran deaths” in the VA system. The probe also determined that more than 50 veterans were seriously harmed by delays in endoscopies and other procedures. The majority of the deaths occurred in 2010 and 2011, according to his report.

Miller and his colleagues are also angry that dozens of requests for information from the VA have gone unanswered — a list that is carefully documented on the committee’s Web site.

Did I say this was the short version?

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