Friday, 23 May 2014 18:30

The VA Scandal in Brief: Yes, It's Bad

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The emerging cover-up of long waiting periods for care at Veterans Administration hospitals has burgeoned into national news in recent weeks, with “secret waiting lists” being exposed in half a dozen or more locations and President Obama calling for an inspector-general inquiry into the matter. 

The scheme to cover up long waits at VA hospitals worked like this: The local VA administrators in numerous VA hospitals would not officially book an appointment — however direly needed — until an opening in a doctor's schedule came up, essentially keeping a waiting list to get onto the official waiting list. In other instances, the politicians in charge of the facilities would constantly cancel and reschedule appointments in order to make it appear that the overwhelming majority of appointments were made within the VA's stated goal of a 14-day window. This allowed administrators to boast they had moved toward compliance with the 14-day mandate coming out of Washington. “Yes, this is gaming the system a bit,” a supervisor's e-mail sent to Cheyenne, Wyoming, workers acknowledged. "When we exceed the 14 day measure, the front office gets very upset, which doesn't help us." The e-mail had been sent by a VA worker-turned-whistleblower to CBS News May 9.

Despite claims by administrators that waiting times were shorter under the Obama administration, actual waiting times by veterans were often months or longer. American Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger testified May 15 before Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, “While a veteran might wait more than two weeks for most primary care appointments, specialty care appointments can take many months or even years.”

The scandal — while simmering for months or even years — made national news with an investigation into the Phoenix, Arizona hospital. But in recent weeks various news outlets have reported similar incidents in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Ft. Collins, Colorado; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Austin, Texas; and Atlanta, Georgia. More instances of “secret waiting lists” are expected to be revealed in the coming months. The Atlanta ABC-television affiliate WSB-TV claimed “hundreds” of deaths since 2001 in an investigation. 

Perhaps the biggest break in the story was an April 30 report by CNN, which noted, “The secret list was part of an elaborate scheme designed by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix who were trying to hide that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor, according to a recently retired top VA doctor and several high-level sources.... Internal e-mails obtained by CNN show that top management at the VA hospital in Arizona knew about the practice and even defended it.” 

Drew Griffin of CNN interviewed the director of the Phoenix facility, Sharon Helman and the chief of staff, Dr. Darren Deering on May 1, and when Griffin asked Deering, "Have you found instances where veterans are on the waiting list and have died?" Deering replied, "Yes."

CNN noted that “as many as” 40 deaths are attributable to the Phoenix hospital alone and that as late as May 23 of this year, veterans are still waiting as long as 55 days for an appointment.

The day after CNN's April 30 broadcast, Phoenix VA Director Sharon Helman, Associate Director Lance Robinson, and a third person were put on administrative leave by President Obama. Dr. Robert Petzel, under secretary for health in the Department of Veterans Affairs, resigned May 16. Some have called for the firing of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki over the issue, even an increasing number of Democrats in Congress.

The care of veterans — and even active duty military personnel — has long been plagued with scandal, from a scathing 2001 General Accounting Office report on care of veterans to the 2007 Washington Post exposé on unsanitary conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Even corruption with local hospitals making fraudulent claims is nothing new. A 2010 internal VA memo published by the American Legion revealed that the deputy under secretary for health operations and management told VA employees: “It has come to my attention that in order to improve scores on assorted access measures, certain facilities have adopted use of inappropriate scheduling practices sometimes referred to as ‘gaming strategies.’”

Supporters of the current system tout polls (such as a Rand Corporation 2004 study) that demonstrate veterans have usually rated VA care higher than that given to the general public. But it should hardly be surprising that people would rate something they get for free higher than something for which they'd otherwise have to pay thousands of dollars.

President Obama has long made a cause out of health care for veterans, saying in a March 19, 2009 speech still featured on the White House website: “We also owe our veterans the care they were promised and the benefits that they have earned. We have a sacred trust with those who wear the uniform of the United States of America. It's a commitment that begins at enlistment, and it must never end. But we know that for too long, we've fallen short of meeting that commitment. Too many wounded warriors go without the care that they need. Too many veterans don't receive the support that they've earned."

Conservative columnist Ben Shapiro has noted that Obama and his supporters have often touted the VA as a model to follow in setting up ObamaCare. But if waits of months or years is the standard for health care, is it really better actual care than a private system when under ObamaCare many Americans will see their health care premiums double?

President Obama has attempted to put a good face on the scandal, claiming in a May 21 press conference, “We have made progress over the last five years. We’ve made historic investments in our veterans. We’ve boosted VA funding to record levels. And we created consistency through advanced appropriations so that veterans organizations knew their money would be there regardless of political wrangling in Washington.”

Likewise, White House Press Secretary Tim Carney noted May 21 that problems with VA care predated Obama: “I think the president made clear that the issue of problems in the VA with access to health benefits has been with us as a country for a long time and has been exacerbated by the fact that we are at the backend of a more than decade-long period of war, where we’ve seen a significant increase in our veterans — in the number of veterans and in the number of veterans who need disability benefits and health services.  And that has been a challenge for the VA for a long, long time — certainly for the past decade or more.  So that’s, as he said today, the President said today, that’s not a new issue.” 

Clearly, veterans need to receive their contracted health care benefits. But if one can expect long waits regardless of the party in charge in Washington, is expanding VA care to encompass the entire nation really a good idea?

Photo of the Phoenix VA Health Care Center: AP Images

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5 comments

  • Comment Link Nora Saturday, 24 May 2014 11:38 posted by Nora

    Men have been brainwashed into thinking that serving in the military is honorable behavior, and a couple of centuries ago, it was. Truth however got in the way when that global scumbag Henry Kissinger let it slip that the globalists view enlisted men as "dumb, stupid animals" fit only for sacrifice in the profit taking by western hegemony that keeps the elite's death grip on humanity. Not only are the enlisted given vaccines with cancer virus and other deadly substances, using them as lab rats, they're exposed to depleted Uranium and chemical agents that are stored on bases where they're constantly exposed. Their food is laced with substances with long lasting adverse effects and they are mind controlled subjects, constantly conditioned to take orders without question and engage in terrible acts. After relentless tours that take a physical toll, they are given anti-depressants and told to deal with the memories of their "honorable" service to their country. We don't even need to have an army with all the drones, unmanned bombers, satellite based weapons and advanced technology we have. The powers of the Military Industrial Complex have been directed at reducing the male population through the ruse of "honorable" service to one's country, and ever present recruiters at high schools keep the ranks filled with bright young men who know there are no jobs waiting for them. We need to cut off the head of the snake and issue arrest warrants for everyone associated with the IMC. Charge them with crimes against humanity. Put only honorable men back in charge of our military, and put these miscreants in jail for life without parole. Give them a cell right next to congress's certain co-conspirators.

  • Comment Link Frank M. Pelteson Saturday, 24 May 2014 08:29 posted by Frank M. Pelteson

    Here is another example of a result from Karl Marx's dictum: "From each according to his ability to each according to his need."

    Then there is "Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace." See https://mises.org/books/perpetual.pdf .

    One can summarize these as power plays to subjugate humanity under the yoke of a small intelletucal elite.

    It started with Adam Weishaupt and his Order of the Illuminati.

    Today we are living out his dream (nightmare).

  • Comment Link Old Mullet Saturday, 24 May 2014 00:36 posted by Old Mullet

    So far this horror has been "politics as usual". They round up all the usual suspects, beat a few, send some home (with hardship pay) for 90 days, stand in a circle and everyone points to his/her left as the guilty party. They even still have full size,color stand-alone poster likenesses of Pres. Bush 2 and Gov. Palin to end up on. Does no one remember when, in 2012 Pres. Obama signed an executive order to rein in the V.A.? Yet he recently "had no knowledge of" the problem. Congress has had oversight and hundreds of people bring this to their attention for over 20 years and now it's all brand new. HOW could that have happened??? I have a thought. Take a government sponsored medical conglomerate and turn it over to high ranking (as in Generals, Admirals, etc.) active and retired officers who, once vested (by good ol' boy back pats) can not be touched. Then scramble all the paper trails and fill documents with attorney style medical jargon. Millions, no, billions of dollars have been pumped into these complexes all over the USA, most of which were substandard when built and have been allowed to get worse since then. There are no checks and balances nor is there anyone or any group that can challenge the "powers" there. While many horror stories are now being relayed, those hundreds of men and women who suffered PTSD and other physical and medical needs have been dropped or never allowed to complete even the paper work (like me). All the politicians in the country can wave their hands and wail to no avail. There is no cut-off switch on the money or power. Until that is done, nothing will change except maybe sending all the whistle blowers to Russia with a price on their head.

  • Comment Link Heidi Preston Friday, 23 May 2014 20:54 posted by Heidi Preston

    Privatization is the key word. First of all I would not quote CNN or Washington Post on ANYTHING! They both come from the same mouth piece which is destroying our Country from within through Government-Corporations.

    When the military was run by the military industrial complex (oh horrors they actually had control of the situation by employing their own service men (women and gays no go at this time) who vowed to be loyal to each other and take care of each other. This mind set ran all the way through the system. But all this changed with the "new" mind set that women and men can do combat together, gays can be openly, well gay...it's a whole new "reset" of norms. Part of the new norm is the idea that privatization of the military will not affect foreign policy which is run on profits.
    Since this "reset" we have seen the privatization of security forces with former military soldiers who have no accountability except to their employers who answer only to board members and stock holders .

    "The PAL program competition was won by the development firm Lend Lease and their hotelier, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). The Army transferred the first ten PAL installations (3,200 rooms) in August 2009. The developer began correcting commercial code noncompliance issues and overhauling the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems of the existing inventory. During the first two years, six facilities with 1,141 rooms were converted to the Holiday Inn Express brand standard. Enhanced guest services include complimentary breakfasts, pet-friendly rooms and the IHG Priority Club frequent-stay program.

    The Army expanded the privatized hotel portfolio by an additional 11 installations (4,800 rooms) in August 2011. Construction of new Candlewood Suites hotels and additional renovation work to the existing facilities is set to commence in the months ahead. "-army news

    The VA hospitals get civilians to run the facilities when most if not all of the military personnel are deployed to overseas facilities and combat zones. Most of the VA facilities are gone and keep getting smaller and smaller if not absorbed by the private industry.

    The writer speaks of free medical services. Nothing is free.

    "The Civilian Medical Resources Network is a small, national network of professionals that was established in 2006 to offer GIs an alternative to the military health and mental health care system."..."This context has shaped GIs’ experiences. Although most GIs using the Network did not engage in torture or other forms of abuse, they expressed awareness of these practices as part of military operations.28,29 In their training, GIs learned that such practices contradict historical rules of war such as the Geneva Convention, as well as specific regulations that govern actions by U.S. military forces. In practice, many GIs also learned that officers tolerated and sometimes encouraged the use of torture and similar abuses. This contradiction created stress, stigma, and shame about unethical actions perpetrated by military colleagues. Professionals working with GIs in the Network have noted high levels of shame, a situation that inhibits GIs from seeking help."..." A grant from RESIST to the Allende Program in Social Medicine supported the work of the Civilian Medical Resources Network.
    Conflict of interest: None reported."

    Sorry but I see a big conflict of interest between civilian and military operations and mindset. Privatization within a military context is a burden not a blessing. They are two very different worlds. If this were not true then the soldiers wouldn't need the physical and psychological help when they return from combat.

  • Comment Link Jake Martinez Friday, 23 May 2014 18:59 posted by Jake Martinez

    Veterans and members of our Armed Forces under attack!
    http://weroinnm.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/veterans-and-members-of-ou...
    “Food For Thought”
    Hello: When Are Americans Going To Wake Up?-God Bless America!
    Semper Fi!
    Jake

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