Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The runaway VA scandal

In the United States, the VA stands accused of cooking the books.  Numerous VA medical centers maintained two sets of appointment lists.  The first one, the official one kept in the computer system, demonstrated veterans received medical attention within 14 days of needing it.  That list is the fairy tale.  The reality was the off books list which demonstrated veterans were actually waiting weeks and months.

The fairy tale list was used to give the impression that VA was doing their job and serving veterans in a timely manner.  It was also used to reward officials for strong performances -- resulting in raises for them and bonuses.  Again, this list was a lie.

Wait, wait! These are allegations.

No, they are documented occurrences. For example, Patricia DiCarlo and Scott Bronstein (CNN) reported yesterday, "An audit team sent to the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center in Gainesville, Florida, discovered a list of patients needing follow-up appointments that was kept on paper instead of in the VA's electronic computer system."  And if you're late to this issue, you can refer to this overview provided by Josh Hicks (Washington Post).

In addition, the problem is more widespread than was initially portrayed.  Matthew Daly (AP) notes, "A spokeswoman for the IG's office said 26 facilities were being investigated nationwide. Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin told a Senate committee last week that at least 10 new allegations about manipulated waiting times and other problems had surfaced since reports of problems at the Phoenix VA hospital came to light last month."

So why isn't Shinseki gone?  Sarah Mimms (National Journal) offers:

The reason many members are holding back, however, goes much deeper. Unlike Attorney General Eric Holder or former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who recently found themselves on the wrong side of Republican ire, Shinseki is a decorated veteran. A four-star general, Shinseki served in the Army for nearly 40 years, including two combat tours in Vietnam, in which he lost part of his foot to a land mine.
The admiration for Shinseki's service has many members letting their pitchforks lie, at least for now.

What a load of nonsense.

Shinseki is over the VA.  He needs to be held accountable for his performance in that role.

'Oh, he's a veteran!'

So what?  You do your job or you don't.  If you don't, you get fired.  It shouldn't matter whether you are a veteran or not.

And if you're going to play the veteran card, many have died and suffered from these fake lists.  One man appeared before Congress to discuss how the lack of timely treatment prevented him from an early diagnosis and he now has stage-four cancer.  That man and other men and women suffering are veterans.

Shinseki is supposed to be ensuring they get what was promised them.  Shinseki is failing at his job and he's failing veterans.

Let's note the number of VA medical centers now being investigated one more time, this time via Scott Bronstein and Tom Cohen's (CNN) reporting, "Meanwhile, the number of Veterans Affairs facilities under investigation has expanded to 26, the agency's Office of Inspector General confirmed Tuesday. Last week, the inspector general told a Senate committee that 10 facilities were being investigated."

Florida's News4Jax's Bruce Hamilton (The Morning Show -- link is video and text) speaks with the state's Governor Rick Scott who states, "Now we know there are secret wait lists at our Gainesville facility. Our VA facilities need transparency and accountability. It starts at the top."  Therefore, he says, "Eric Shinseki should resign."  The editorial board of the Gainseville Sun offers, "To be sure, the Obama Administration has shown an unwillingness to make top officials accountable in scandals such as the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act website. And while the growing VA scandal certainly shows a need for greater accountability, just firing people won’t solve the problem."

The editorial board for the Delaware News Journal weighs in on the scandal and notes:

For example, a scandal has been bubbling up for days involving VA hospitals around the country, possible deaths of veterans waiting for service, and the claim that government officials falsified records to protect their rear ends. Yet the White House announced President Obama is really, truly angry about it because he saw a report on CNN.
Then the White House claims it has taken decisive action because it fired the person in charge of the VA health program. It turns out the government had announced the official's planned retirement weeks ago.
President Obama promised during his 2008 campaign that he would fix problems with the Veterans Administration. So much for promises. 

On the 'firing' that was actually a retirement, John Podhoretz (New York Post) offers:

At first, last week's dismissal of a high-ranking official with the Dickensian name of Dr. Robert Petzel seemed like the least the administration could've done to respond to the cover-up of the lax, lazy and downright inhuman treatment provided to veterans at the government-run hospitals across the country -- hospitals specifically and solely dedicated to their care.
The supposed firing came a day after a disastrous congressional hearing featuring Petzel and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.
But almost immediately, it turned out Petzel wasn't dismissed at all; he'd announced his retirement months earlier and was only staying on until his successor was confirmed.

"Almost immediately" is correct.  The 'firing' took place last Friday and it was pointed out the same day (see Friday's snapshot) -- by many -- that Petzel was retiring and had announced it in 2013 and Barack had nominated someone to succeed Petzel already.

As the day wore on, people began to feel lied to as it was noted Shinseki turned in his notice last September (he's retiring) and Barack had already nominated Dr. Jeffrey Murawsky to be the new Undersecretary for Health Care.  From that day's snapshot:

Pete Kasperowicz (The Blaze) quotes three people on Shinseki's attempted con.  The Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee Jeff Miller states, "Today's announcement from VA regarding Undersecretary Robert Petzel's 'resignation' is the pinnacle of disingenuous political doublespeak.  Petzel was already scheduled to retire in 2014 and President Obama has already announced his intention to nominate Petzel's replacement, so characterizing this as a 'resignation' just doesn’t pass the smell test."  Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's Tom Tarantino is quoted stating, "To be clear, Dr. Petzel's resignation is not the step toward accountability that our members need to see from VA leaders.  Anyone who has been following this situation knows that Dr. Petzel had already announced his retirement earlier this year."  The American Legion's Daniel Dellinger is quoted declaring, "This move by VA is not a corrective action, but a continuation of business as usual. Dr. Petzel was already scheduled to retire this year, so his resignation now really won’t make that much of a difference."

Let's note the violence in Iraq today, National Iraqi News Agency reports a Ramadi home invasion left the son of Judge Sabri al-Dulaimi dead,  2 Kirkuk bombings left eleven people injured, 1 civilian was shot dead near Sharif cemetery, a battle "on the road links between Baquba and Muqdadiyah" left one police captain injured, one mayor was shot at near Muqdadiyah and he was left injured, Joint Operations Command announced they killed 10 suspects in Anbar, and 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Riyadh.  Alsumaria adds a Qadisiyah roadside bombing left 1 woman dead and two more people injured.  All Iraq News reports a bus carrying soldiers in Tuz Khurmatu was attacked leaving 8 Iraqi soldiers dead and four more injured, secuirty forces say they shot dead 1 sniper in Ramadi, and Baghdad Operations Command says they killed 8 suspects.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 610 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.

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