VA Acting Secretary: 100,000 Vets Victimized by Bogus Wait Lists

Friday, 06 Jun 2014 01:17 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson said an investigation shows more than 100,000 military veterans across the country were placed on bogus waiting lists for medical appointments.

Gibson told a news conference in Phoenix on Thursday that the exact number of people from each city who were dumped onto “secret lists” will be disclosed on Monday, The Arizona Republic reported.

The staggering number of veterans on the lists was disclosed as a contingent of heroic American vets who stormed the beaches in Normandy 70 years were hailed at a ceremony marking the event attended by President Barack Obama.

The fake lists used for official reporting purposes contained falsified shorter waiting times for veterans while the secrets lists showed the long delays that vets had actually faced while waiting for appointments with doctors for treatment.

"In far too many circumstances, we have let our veterans down," Gibson said at the Carl T. Hayden Medical Center in Phoenix, where the VA scandal erupted. "In too many instances, we have behaved in ways that are not consistent with our values. This is not what our veterans deserve."

Gibson said that the VA investigation had produced evidence that tens of thousands of patients had been victimized by the scheduling scheme, according to the Republic.

The acting secretary said that the VA will release specific information next week on its findings from audits at 150 medical centers, as well as reveal actual patient wait-time figures for many VA facilities nationwide.

Gibson, who was hired to be the VA's deputy secretary in February, was temporarily named to lead the agency when embattled Eric Shinseki resigned last week after 100 members of Congress demanded his firing or resignation.

The scandal, which was exposed by Phoenix physician Sam Foote, has mushroomed since it was first revealed in April that 40 veterans in Arizona had died while waiting months for medical appointments after being placed on a bogus list.

Gibson said the VA inquiry established that at least 18 Arizona veterans had died while waiting to see a doctor, although he could not say whether the treatment delays had caused their deaths. According to a report, Gibson said most of the patients had come to the VA for "end of life care."

The VA, which treats about 9 million veterans each year, also confirmed reports that 1,700 veterans had been deliberately kept off an electronic waiting lists for first-time appointments.

But VA officials have now announced than around 800 more veterans in Arizona had been left off appointment lists for specialist care, according to the newspaper.

Republican Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, said that he has strong reservations about the department’s data.

"I have no faith that the bureaucracy yet understands the need to tell the truth,” he told the Republic. “I will say this: The interim [inspector general] report was pretty damning, and had they wanted to cover up numbers, they could have done it in the interim report."

The scheduling problems being investigated at 42 VA facilities have been blamed on a shortage of doctors plus a system of bonuses and promotions in the VA system to meet departmental thresholds.

Gibson has banned all bonuses for VA senior executives and has suspended extra performance pay to other employees, the Republic said.

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