It’s one of the most shameful scandals in American history.
Our brave veterans — men and women who risked their lives for us — being put on secret lists, turned away when desperately needing help, with many left to die while waiting.
And we can’t say no one knew. Because many did — including Obama himself.
Over five years ago the Obama administration was given full notice that VA hospitals were reporting faked wait times to see veterans, many of whom were in life-and-death situations.
But nothing was done.
Even now, as the scandal is unfolding, all we’re told — by a spokesman — that Obama has to say about it is that he’s “madder than hell.”
And a just-out investigation is showing that the death toll from this outrage is possibly much higher, and has been going on much longer than anyone has admitted.
What started in the Phoenix VA hospital is now spreading like wildfire around the country.
And those secret waiting lists? Well, we can now add the Albuquerque, New Mexico veteran’s hospital to the fray.
But we may never learn the full truth about this disgrace. A whistleblower has come forward saying that VA officials may be shredding records to “cover their tracks.”
When word broke last month that the VA hospital in Phoenix maintained a secret waiting list to try and cover up the fact that close to 2,000 sick vets had to wait for months to see a doctor, we were shocked.
But as this terrible story unravels, it’s obvious that what went on in Phoenix is just part of a long-running horror story.
Employees have come forward with tales from the VA outpatient clinic in Fort Collins, Colorado about how falsified records hid the fact that thousands of vets had to wait for months to be treated.
And we’re hearing the same story coming out about VA hospitals in Wyoming and Texas. Right now six states, including Arizona are being investigated.
But if it’s possible to discover anything even more disturbing about this situation, this may be it. A whistleblower has told the Internet newspaper The Daily Beast that the list of veterans in Albuquerque whose treatment was delayed for months has gone missing.
“The ‘secret wait list’ for patient appointments is being either moved or was destroyed after what happened in Phoenix,” a doctor who works at the VA hospital in Albuquerque told a reporter.
“Right now,” he said, “there is an eight-month waiting list for patients to get ultrasounds of their hearts,” the doctor said. He added that “Some patients have died before they got their studies.”
How many have died while waiting? Well, that depends on where you look — or whom you ask.
CNN first reported that up to 40 veterans died on that “secret list” while waiting for help. The VA’s acting inspector general told a House panel last Thursday that the “number 40” isn’t the “total number of veterans that we’re looking at.”
Last month the VA itself finally admitted that 23 vets had died while waiting for care. But that sounds like just the tip of the iceberg.
The Dayton Daily News conducted its own investigation. What the paper did was to check the VA database for the words “delay in treatment” in claims paid out by the VA since 2001.
And they found those words 167 times. According to the paper, the VA paid out over $36 million to settle those claims, either on its own or as ordered to by a court.
At the beginning of the month the American Legion called for the resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.
But as Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute said, “Shinseki was asleep at the switch. But the problem goes well beyond an incompetent cabinet secretary or a few corrupt local bureaucrats.”
Tanner said that this should be a “lesson for us” as the government takes a bigger and bigger role in health care.
And we end up getting less and less.
“He KNEW! Obama told of Veterans Affairs health care debacle as far back as 2008, Jim McElhatton, The Washington Times, May 18, 2014
“‘Delay in treatment’ a factor in more than 100 deaths at VA centers” Josh Sweigart, May 18, 2014, Stars and Stripes, stripes.com
“Exclusive: VA scandal hits new hospital” Jacob Siegel, May 18, 2014, The Daily Beast, thedailybeast.com
“How VA hospitals are a government-run disaster” Michael D. Tanner, May 16, 2014, New York Post, nypost.com