Image 01 Image 03

VA Scandal Tag

After three years of constant problems at Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals, the Senate passed a bill that will make it easier to fire offending VA employees currently protected by layers of bureaucracy. Fox News reported:
The bill would lower the burden of proof needed to fire employees -- from a "preponderance" to "substantial evidence," allowing a dismissal even if most evidence is in a worker's favor.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has faced scandal after scandal, some of which caused veterans to die while waiting for care. There was even a dentist putting veterans at risk for HIV. But the VA has also punished those who blow the whistle on VA wrong doings. President Trump took a step in the right direction to fix these problems when he signed an executive order that creates the "Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection" at the VA.

The general inspector for the VA found that veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, D.C., face "imminent danger" due to the horrific conditions. USA Today reported:
The VA inspector general found that in recent weeks the operating room at the hospital ran out of vascular patches to seal blood vessels and ultrasound probes used to map blood flow.

Fox News has reported that another doctor has claimed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has retaliated against him after he revealed wrongdoings at the hospital for which he works. Dr. Dale Klein "works" at the Southeast Missouri John J. Pershing VA in Poplar Bluff, MO, but that work consists of staring at a blank wall all day because as he told the inspector general there are "secret wait-lists and wait-time manipulation" at the VA.

The Department of Veterans Affairs' Office of Inspector General has found that officials have not made necessary changes to the suicide hotline for veterans. From The Wall Street Journal:
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ suicide crisis hotline is understaffed, poorly supervised and sometimes leaves veterans on hold so long that they simply hang up, according to an investigation released Monday.

The Durham VA in North Carolina has come under fire after photos appeared on Facebook of patients left lying on the floor. Marine veteran Stephen McMenamin and his wife Hanna could not believe what they saw in the waiting room:
"It was very upsetting," Stephen McMenamin said. He and his wife said they saw a handful of older veterans mistreated and ignored during the seven hours they were at the hospital, including an aged-veteran in a wheelchair.

The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System in Tampa Bay, FL, left the dead body of a veteran in an unused for shower for nine hours before transporting it to the morgue. The Tampa Bay Times reported:
Once the veteran died, hospice staff members made direct verbal requests to an individual described as the transporter for the body to be moved to the morgue. The transporter told them to follow proper procedures instead by contacting dispatchers. That request was never made, so those responsible for taking away the body never showed up. At first, the body was moved to a hallway in the hospice, then to a shower room, where it stayed, unattended, for more than nine hours.

The VA in Tomah, Wisconsin, has become entangled in a scandal after a dentist may have infected veterans with hepatitis or HIV:
Nearly 600 veterans who received care at the Tomah VA may have been infected with several types of disease due to violations in infection control procedures. VA administrators made the announcement Tuesday afternoon at a press conference. The Tomah VA says it's in the process of notifying 592 veterans that they may be infected with Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, or HIV after they received care from one particular dental provider. Acting Medical Center Director Victoria Brahm said the dentist was using his own equipment, then cleaning it and reusing it, which violates the VA's regulations.

Although we haven't heard much about it recently, the VA scandal is very much alive and well. The National Review published an article about the wide-ranging problems with the VA in April of this year.  Here's a quick reminder, neatly encapsulated in NR's review of VA-related stories:
The Veterans Affairs–scandal headlines speak for themselves. The Daily Beast: “Veteran Burned Himself Alive outside VA Clinic”; “Dead veterans canceling their own appointments?”; New York Times: “Report Finds Sharp Increase in Veterans Denied V.A. Benefits,” “More than 125,000 U.S. veterans are being denied crucial mental health services,” and “Rubio, Miller ask committee to back VA accountability bills.” Two years ago this week [April, 2016]— thanks to courageous whistleblowers in Phoenix and a fed-up House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman — the world was finally exposed to rampant VA dysfunction and corruption. Dozens of veterans had died while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA — which was, unfortunately, just the tip of the iceberg. Across the country, VA officials had manipulated lists to hide real health-care wait times. In total, thousands — and possibly far more — met the same fate: waiting, and dying, at the hands of a calcified and soulless bureaucracy. Investigations were launched, and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki eventually resigned.
Rather than attempting to correct a wide array of serious problems--ranging from incompetence to corruption, the VA has instead and in defiance of a 2014 law  "quietly" stopped sending performance data to a national database for consumers.

Veterans at the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital have demanded action to clean the black mold in their housing complex, which has built up for the past 10 months. From Fox News:
Veterans Affairs documents indicate officials at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital knew about the black mold infestation in August 2015 but conducted no testing until mid-April 2016 and have yet to clean up the problem – though they are promising to act soon. The mold is contained in two rooms of the Residential Care Facility (RCF), a separate building housing 30 residents for indefinite stays. “I was going by the hallway and the door was open. The back wall was all moldy black,” 81-year-old resident Raymond Shibek told “I went and told the director of nursing. She said, ‘How did you see that?’ I said, ‘The door was open.’ She said, ‘You weren’t supposed to see that.’” Shibek said the mold covered an entire wall measuring roughly 10 feet-by-10 feet.

We've got some real staffer-on-senator, Republican-on-Democrat violence brewing up in Wisconsin---and it (mercifully) has nothing at all to do with the 2016 presidential cycle. Senator Tammy Baldwin's former Deputy State Director has officially filed an ethics complaint against the Wisconsin democrat, accusing the Senator of firing and demoting staffers in an effort to cover up mishandling of a whistleblower complaint about a Wisconsin VA hospital. Marquette Baylor is represented by Kansas City attorney Todd Graves, a former U.S. attorney and advocate for the conservative nonprofit Wisconsin Club for Growth. The trouble started when a complaint reached Baldwin's state-based caseworkers about alleged patient abuse at the Tomah VA hospital. According to the whistleblower, patients at Tomah were being prescribed dangerous amounts of prescription narcotics. A later Congressional investigation would show that the patients at Tomah were not only more likely to receive high doses of narcotics, but that three veterans died after receiving treatment there. The investigation also revealed a "culture of fear" that intimidated hospital employees and compromised patient care.

Today officials announced that four Veterans Affairs officials have been recommended for termination after investigations into their facilities revealed long wait times, unsafe water systems, and general "neglect of duty." VA headquarters revealed in a statement today that the heads of hospitals in Pittsburgh, central Alabama, and Dublin, Georgia, should expect to receive their pink slips, along with the VA’s deputy chief procurement director in Washington.
“VA will actively and aggressively pursue disciplinary action on those who violate our values. There should be no doubt that when we discover evidence of wrongdoing, we will hold employees accountable,” VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson said. The firings are a direct result of wrongdoing found by the VA’s Office of Inspector General and the Office of Accountability Review, including significant delays and wait times of veterans, manipulation of appointment data, “neglect of duty,” inappropriate handling of VA contracts and misconduct at VA facilities. The firings also follow a yearlong investigation by CNN that found numerous instances of delays in care and, at times, deaths of U.S. veterans at VA facilities across the country. The reports sparked a national outrage, which led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and prompted numerous House and Senate hearings. That resulted in a new law revising the VA health care system designed to help veterans get faster care. The new law, which was passed this summer and signed by President Obama, also gives VA Secretary Robert McDonald more authority to quickly fire top executives.