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The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for Veterans Affairs has just issued a scathing report confirming deadly allegations that VA hospitals have been hiding inordinately long and abusive wait times for our nation’s heroes to receive the medical care they deserve.
The OIG report alleges “criminal misconduct” of senior VA officials that has led to “possible wrongful deaths” of veterans. It also confirms that the VA scandal is not limited to a single VA hospital. The report states that “inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic throughout VHA [Veterans Health Administration].”
This interim report, however, focuses on the VA facility in Phoenix, Arizona, at the heart of the burgeoning scandal. The results are disturbing to say the least.
The report “substantiated serious conditions” at this VA hospital which led to hidden wait times for veterans. 1,700 veterans, more than half of those waiting for care, were not included on the official Electronic Waiting List. For these veterans, their wait time exceeded 115 days average for care, far in excess of the reported 24-day average wait time.
The report notes that the discrepancy in reported and actual wait time was used in calculating “awards and salary increases.” VA officials would actually get a raise if it looked like the wait times were low, so they apparently used the bogus wait times in the official reports, instead of accurately reporting the actual excessive wait times. If in fact veterans died to pad the paychecks of bureaucratic fat cats, it would be one of the worst travesties in our nation’s history.
Even worse the OIG report warns:
Most importantly, these veterans were and continue to be at risk of being forgotten or lost in Phoenix HCS’s convoluted scheduling process. As a result, these veterans may never obtain a requested or required clinical appointment.
The report further left open the possibility that these delays directly contributed to numerous deaths.
The OIG recommends that the Secretary of the VA immediately reach out and ensure that the 1,700 veterans not yet even on the official wait list be assured prompt medical care and proposes to undertake a massive review of the entire VA hospital system.
We owe a solemn duty to our veterans. They have fought and risked their lives for our freedoms. It is a moral and legal imperative that we provide them medial care.
Disturbingly, it is unlikely that anyone will truly be held accountable as the bloated bureaucracy of the federal government does what it does best, protect its own.
It’s an utter disgrace. The VA has been entrusted to care for our heroes. Those who fought in WWII, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, and everywhere in-between depend on the VA. We put our lives in their hands and they put their lives in the hands of the VA. In just one VA hospital, our government has left 1,700 vets behind. It must end.
First and foremost, we must ensure that these veterans are cared for through whatever means necessary. And then we must fight the bureaucratic trend of endless, pointless investigations and actually hold those responsible accountable and make drastic changes to the VA.
The VA scandal, under the Obama Administration, has gone from bad to worse.
Matthew Clark is Associate Counsel for Government Affairs and Media Advocacy with the ACLJ. A lifelong citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia, he lives with his wife and three boys in Northern Virginia. Follow Matthew Clark: @_MatthewClark.