The number of veterans seeking health care but ending up on waiting lists of one month or more is 50 percent higher now than it was a year ago when a scandal over false records and long wait times wracked the Department of Veterans Affairs, The New York Times reported.
The VA also faces a budget shortfall of nearly $3 billion, the Times reported in a story posted online ahead of its Sunday editions. The agency is considering furloughs, hiring freezes and other significant moves to reduce the gap, the newspaper reported
Philadelphia’s Department of Veterans Affairs office “cooked the books” to understate the amount of time veterans waited for pensions and other benefits, according to a massive inspector general’s report released Wednesday.
Delays were not because of a lack of funds or personnel but because of “inefficient workload practices” and “disorganized storage,” the inspector general said in the 100-page report.
More than 31,000 benefits claims were pending an average of 312 days instead of five, which is the standard, because they were “mismanaged” at “various levels.” That meant that questions from homeless veterans and widows were met with silence, and notices that a veteran had died went unheeded.
Numerous times, management ordered staff to change the dates on old claims to be the current date.
An official at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel said Monday that Department of Veterans Affairs officials are known to be retaliating against VA whistleblowers by illegally going through their medical records, in an apparent attempt to harass and discredit these whistleblowers.
This surprising testimony from Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner was delivered at a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee hearing, which was called to discuss the problems whistleblowers face when they try to expose the ongoing failure of the VA to provide medical care to veterans.
In Lerner’s prepared testimony, she explained that many VA officials who try to reveal these problems are veterans themselves who are also seeking care at the VA. She said in some cases, VA officials try to retaliate by examining the medical records of these officials, and said this still happens — she called it an “ongoing concern.”
“In several cases, the medical records of whistleblowers have been accessed and information in those records has apparently been used to attempt to discredit the whistleblowers,” she said.
After five suicidal veterans walked out of the emergency room without getting help during a single week in January, Brandon Coleman brought his concerns to his supervisor at the VA Hospital in Phoenix. Coleman, a therapist and decorated veteran, urgently warned that there was a broader problem with how suicidal patients were being handled.
Six days after he spoke with his boss, Coleman recalled, he was suspended from his job. He believes it was in retaliation.
VA Secretary Robert McDonald came to office in July in the midst of the largest scandal in the agency’s history. He announced that he wanted to make “every employee a whistleblower” and create a fresh culture that “celebrates them.”
Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald got defensive during a hearing on the agency’s budget Wednesday, snapping at one congressman who suggested he’d accomplished little in his first six months on the job. “I ran a large company, sir, what have you done?” McDonald said to Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) in a heated exchange.
Was that company, Comcast Customer Service? ‘Cause you can’t even get Christmas cards delivered to “Any soldier or Sailor” in the VA hospital.
So what I’m about to post has me terribly upset…actually pretty pissed off. Back in November and December my students (6and 7 yr olds with autism) made over 50 Christmas cards for our vets at Walter Reed Medical Center. We called them for the proper address, etc. we told them what we were sending and who was sending. I just got the package returned to me…OPENED but rubber banded shut. I called to see why. They said: ” the deadline for Christmas cards is Nov. 29th!” It was postmarked Dec.16th. Too late. Too late! Too late! I want this shared everywhere! THIS IS A DISGRACE! Our men and women heroes laying in that hospital were good enough to fight for our freedom. And they can’t give them a Christmas card!