The scandal we had before the Bowe Bergdahl thing blew up isn't over, folks. You may recall there was that little issue with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals cooking their schedule books to make it appear as though they had a better record serving their veteran patients than they actually did. Secretary Eric Shinseki may have resigned, but there's still plenty to discuss.
Here are a couple of the latest developments about the VA hospital scandal:
VA Confirms 18 Died While on Wait Lists in Phoenix
Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson said that at least 100,000 veterans have been kept off waiting lists nationwide. In Phoenix, where details of the scandal first were exposed, 18 veterans died while waiting to see a doctor. From USA Today:
During a news conference Thursday at the Carl T. Hayden Medical Center in Phoenix, where the VA medical scandal erupted, Gibson also disclosed that at least 18 Arizona veterans died while awaiting doctor appointments, though it remains unclear whether the delayed care is to blame for those fatalities.
Gibson said he had details on 14 of the deaths and it appeared most had contacted the VA for "end of life care."
"None of that excuses us," said Gibson. "These lists were not being worked — inexcusable."
Gibson said if any of the 18 deaths is found to have been tied to delays or bogus wait-time stats that the agency will disclose that and discipline the responsible employees.
More details from an internal audit will be released Monday about how many patients had been placed on "secret lists" rather than being provided medical care.
Feds Probe Retaliation Against Whistleblowers
The problems with medical care at VA hospitals aren't new. Complaints about poor treatment have been popping up forever. And not all VA employees have been complacent or passive about the agency's shoddy care. Federal investigators are now probing dozens of allegations that VA management retaliated against those who tried to blow the whistle on the agency's incompetence. From The Washington Post:
Federal investigators are examining claims that the Department of Veterans Affairs retaliated against 37 whistleblowers, including workers who tried to report actions relating to the agency's recent scheduling scandal.
The complaints include allegations that managers demoted, suspended and lowered the performance ratings of employees who tried to expose inappropriate record-keeping practices at VA hospitals, according to the Office of Special Counsel, a federal investigative and prosecutorial agency that protects federal employees from reprisals.
Claims of retaliation against whistleblowers have arisen at 28 VA locations in 18 states and Puerto Rico, OSC said.
"The frequency with which VA employees are filing these complaints is one of the highest levels in the federal government," said OSC spokesman Nick Schwellenbach.
That's a lot of whistles