House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller told DC-based WMAL Radio on Tuesday about his congressional staffers recently being spied on when they looked into various VA complaints at a regional Veterans Benefits Administration office.
His staff was told on “three different occasions” to go to a specific room to do their work but one VA employee said it wasn’t necessary.
Miller, a Republican from Florida, recounted that the “VBA’s acting director took that employee outside” for several minutes and when they returned, his staff was directed again to the specific room on a different floor.
His staffers discovered the room’s sound and video system were prepared to observe their work while they reviewed case files.
“In that room, both of the mics were hot and the camera itself was activated,” the committee chairman told WMAL host Larry O’Connor.
Miller continued, “My staff said, ‘We’re not going to do it in this room,’ and they requested to be taken to another room.”
VBA relocated the committee staffers after they pushed back about the use of the room.
When Department of Veterans Affairs Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey was confronted at Monday night’s congressional VA hearing about the spying incident, Miller said that “there was no attempt to deny that it had occurred.”
Obama has been dodging the VA scandal from the get go, and as it seems that he’s tried to distract Americans with other “good news” (i.e. Bergdahl trade) that has only blown up in his face, it seems that the current administration is literally falling apart. Most recently, it appears the scandal has recently blown wide open with another bombshell accusation regarding the number of veterans that has actually died.
Now when the first reports of the VA scandal broke, numbers were around 40 veterans that had died due to delayed treatment with numbers as high as 120. Currently though, it appears that yet again, Americans have been lied to, this time to the extent of covering up over the actual 1,000 veterans that actually died.
If you were still unaware of the scandal, the VA created a secret list in which veterans were placed in order to delay them treatment and give the facility the false appearance that they were more effective than they really were. Unfortunately for those veterans – some of which were in dire need of critical treatment – they’re requests were thrown in the trash and forgotten about.
All of a sudden, people started dying because of the VA’s incompetence and secretive policy of abandoning our veterans.
Now, a scheduling clerk at the Phoenix VA, Pauline DeWenter, has come forward to share an even more shocking discovery. While working there, she noticed VA administration “reclassifying” deceased veterans as “alive” to make the number of the dead appear much lower.
Once again, in a shocking discovery, the VA is proving its incompetence and that its malicious acts know no bounds when it comes to self-preservation. Furthermore, Sen. Tom Coburn has recently come forward to say:
“Over the past decade, more than 1,000 veterans may have died as a result of VA malfeasance. Poor management is costing the department billions of dollars more and compromising veterans’ access to medical care.”
These two shocking admissions has not only blow the VA scandal wide open, but has left a gaping wound in the confidence this nation has in its government. Surely now, with that many dead due to nothing more than incompetence and laziness, the American people will demand justice.
For America to turn its backs on those that have honorably served this country, is not only despicable, but nauseating.
The White House on Monday came under increased pressure to launch a criminal probe of the Veterans Affairs Department after an audit found more than 100,000 veterans were kept waiting for medical care.
The audit uncovered evidence of widespread tampering of documents at Veterans Affairs (VA) clinics, with schedulers receiving direction from their superiors to use “unofficial lists” to make the waiting times for appointments “appear more favorable.”
The audit found more than 57,000 veterans waited at least 90 days to see a doctor, and an additional 63,000 people over the past decade never received an initial appointment at all.
Republican leaders in Congress called the findings a “national disgrace” as members of both parties demanded the Justice Department prosecute the officials responsible.
“The Department of Justice should get off the sidelines and start actively pursuing charges where applicable to the fullest extent of the law,” said Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), the chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
In the Senate, 11 Democrats joined 10 Republicans in urging an “effective and prompt” investigation by federal authorities. The leaders of the push – Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) – said criminal charges shouldn’t wait on the results of a VA inspector general (IG) investigation that will be released in August.
“The spreading and growing scale of apparent criminal wrongdoing is fast outpacing the criminal investigative resources of the IG, and the revelations in the interim report only highlight the urgency of involvement by the Department of Justice,” the senators wrote.
The damaging findings of the audit could spur Congress into quick action on legislation aimed at fixing the VA’s problems and clearing the backlog for treatment.
The Senate is likely to vote this week on a compromise bill from McCain and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would allow veterans experiencing long wait times to seek private medical care. The bill would allow for immediate firings of VA employees and expedite the hiring of medical staff.
“I am happy to schedule a vote on it as quickly as possible,” Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said.
On the other side of the Capitol, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) promised the House would act this week on a “common-sense bill” that would allow veterans who have waited more than 30 days for an appointment to seek private care.
The audit released Monday, while harshly critical of the VA, pushed some of the blame to Congress, arguing the goal of setting up appointments within 14 days was “not attainable” given the growing demand for services.
Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, stressed that point even as he called for the immediate firing of “incompetent administrators and those who have manipulated wait-time data.”
“The reason certain VA facilities around the country have long wait times is because they lack an adequate number of doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners,” Sanders said.
Still, the audit represents a harsh and sweeping indictment of the VA.
About 500 of the VA staffers interviewed, or 13 percent, said they received instructions to enter appointment dates different from what veterans had requested, and 8 percent, or about 300, said they used “alternatives” to the official scheduling system.
Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson is scrambling to try and clean up the department.
In a release accompanying the audit, the VA promised that cases of “willful misconduct” would be investigated so that “appropriate personnel actions” can be taken.
“Where appropriate, VA will initiate the process of removing senior leaders,” the VA said.
Gibson said the VA was in the process of contacting more than 90,000 veterans during the first phase of a new initiative accelerating care. He said 50,000 had been contacted so far.
Those steps are unlikely to stem pressure on the White House, which is trying to contain the damage from the scandal before it becomes an albatross on Democrats in the midterm elections.
The White House said the release of the audit reflected President Obama’s “commitment to try to be transparent” about the process of reforming the department.
“This is a large task,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. “There is no sugar-coating that. But it is a task the president’s never been more dedicated to.”
Some military veterans are being forced to leave their nursing home. It’s an unintended consequence of President Obama’s executive order in February to raise the minimum wage for new federal contract workers from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.
Sandy Franks, public affairs officer at Shreveport’s Overton Brooks V. A. Medical Center, explains that nursing homes that have contracts for subsidized care from the Veterans Administration become federal contractors. If they refuse to raise their wages, their contracts will not be renewed.
Former Marine A.J. Crain just wheeled himself into his new room at Shreveport Manor on Mansfield Road when he got the news that the home’s contract will end this month.
“We fought all your wars, and now we’re broke. Where do we go from here?” Crain asks.
“We gotta go. Simple as that. We gotta go,” says Vietnam War Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient John Washington.
“I think it’s very wrong. I think it’s very distasteful,” Washington goes on to say about Shreveport Manor’s decision. “I mean some of these people here work their backsides off to keep this place going,” he said, pointing to a woman changing his bed.
Shreveport Manor is owned by Gamble Guest Care. Their Chief Operating Officer says if they raise wages for workers there, they have to do that at all eight of their facilities.
In a statement, Gamble COO Matt Machen said, in part, “The additional labor expenses are simply unaffordable. As such, many long term care providers have indicated that they will no longer seek or renew V.A. contracts.”
Franks at the V.A. agrees that this has the potential to be a national problem as more V.A. contracts with nursing homes expire.
“We will deal with it on a case by case basis,” Franks says. “We will work the families and try to provide the most convenient, and the nursing homes that are up to our standards to take care of our veterans.”
“I’m not too happy over the situation,” grumbles former Navy sailor Charles Shufflin at Shreveport Manor.
Shufflin hasn’t even bothered unpacking his boxes of belongings since he has a place to go. His daughter Vickie Carrington is making room at her house.
“For my dad, I love him,” she says, kissing him on the forehead.
“I’m not so worried about myself,” Shufflin says, “but the veterans that have no place to live.”
“There’s a lot of people out there that have fought for our country,” Carrington adds, choking back tears. “And the ones that don’t have family members to take them in to take care of them, where are they going to go?”
The V.A. says they’ll look for space at other V. A. nursing homes, war veterans homes, or veteran community living centers.
Gamble’s Machen says the company will try to keep its veterans in place by looking for other forms of reimbursement, such as Medicare and Medicaid. He says only about one percent of their residents are affected.
Shufflin and Crain had just moved into Shreveport Manor from Rose View Nursing Center across the street, after the V.A. recently deemed Rose View had fallen below V. A. standards. So those vets would be moving for the second time in as many months.
Newly released public records show that the Department of the Interior knew in advance that two groups of aging veterans would be visiting the World War II Memorial on October 1, 2013, but they decided to barricade the premises anyway.
According to emails obtained by National Review Online, the U.S. National Park Service employees were also constantly monitoring the news for any negative media attention. Moreover, the emails show that government shutdown exceptions were granted to National Park Service employees.
The Obama administration tried to make political hay out of the government shutdown by closing the National Mall and denying access to monuments, but the decision backfired when the veterans defied the signs and fences and entered the WWII Memorial. The vets were taking part in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Honor Flight, established in 2011 to help fly the state’s WWII veterans to Washington, D.C. and to provide tours to monuments dedicated in their honor.
Obama told the American people that it was necessary to shut down the Mall and blamed Republicans for creating the hardships. However, the emails reveal that the Department of the Interior and National Park Service did not have to shut down the monuments but did so to make a point.
On September 30, Tom Buttry, a legislative correspondent in Senator Tom Harkin’s (D-Iowa) office, stated that it would actually be easier and less costly to keep the mall open than to shut it down:
While I understand that these memorials have remained accessible to the public during past shutdowns (I’d imagine with the mall being so open, it’d probably [be] more manpower intensive to try to completely close them), I wanted to do my due diligence and make 100 percent sure that people could visit the outdoor memorials on the National Mall in the event of a shutdown.
Employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) destroyed veterans’ medical files in a systematic attempt to eliminate backlogged veteran medical exam requests, a former VA employee told The Daily Caller.
Audio of an internal VA meeting obtained by TheDC confirms that VA officials in Los Angeles intentionally canceled backlogged patient exam requests.
“The committee was called System Redesign and the purpose of the meeting was to figure out ways to correct the department’s efficiency. And one of the issues at the time was the backlog,” Oliver Mitchell, a Marine veteran and former patient services assistant in the VA Greater Los Angeles Medical Center, told TheDC.
“We just didn’t have the resources to conduct all of those exams. Basically we would get about 3,000 requests a month for [medical] exams, but in a 30-day period we only had the resources to do about 800. That rolls over to the next month and creates a backlog,” Mitchell said. ”It’s a numbers thing. The waiting list counts against the hospitals efficiency. The longer the veteran waits for an exam that counts against the hospital as far as productivity is concerned.”
By 2008, some patients were “waiting six to nine months for an exam” and VA “didn’t know how to address the issue,” Mitchell said.
VA Greater Los Angeles Radiology department chief Dr. Suzie El-Saden initiated an “ongoing discussion in the department” to cancel exam requests and destroy veterans’ medical files so that no record of the exam requests would exist, thus reducing the backlog, Mitchell said.
Audio from a November 2008 meeting obtained by TheDC depicts VA Greater Los Angeles officials plotting to cancel backlogged exam requests.
“I’m still canceling orders from 2001,” said a male official in the meeting.
“Anything over a year old should be canceled,” replied a female official.
“Canceled or scheduled?” asked the male official.
“Canceled… Your backlog should start at April ’07,” the female official replied, later adding, ”a lot of those patients either had their studies somewhere else, had their surgery… died, don’t live in the state… It’s ridiculous.”
El-Saden, according to Mitchell, was “the person who said destroy the records.” And her plan was actually carried out during the Obama administration’s management of VA.
“That actually happened,” Mitchell said. “We had that discussion in November 2008 and then in March 2009 they started to delete the exams. Once you cancel or delete an order it automatically cancels out that record” so that no record of the exam requests remained.
Mitchell tried to blow the whistle on the scheme and ended up being transferred out of his department and eventually losing his job.
“I actually filed a complaint with the VA [Inspector General] IG and the office of special counsel. The IG requested if I had any documentation. They wanted names. I gave them [about] a thousand names,” Mitchell said. ”The list I turned into the IG went all the way back to 1997.”
“I filed the initial complaint with the IG… The IG instead of doing their own investigation just gave it to the facility and made them aware of my complaint.”
Mitchell eventually wrote to Congress about the issue in January 2011. Two months later, in March 2011, he was fired.
Mitchell received an April 30, 2013 letter from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel stating that OIG found in November 2009 that “all imaging services across the country were instructed to mass purge all outstanding imaging orders for studies older than six months, where the procedure was no longer needed” and that “patient imaging requests found to still be valid were scheduled… Approval was granted for this process by the MEC [Medical Executive Committee], and in collaboration with the Service Chiefs and/or Careline Directors within the health-care system.”
But Mitchell said that in Los Angeles, exam requests that were found to still be needed were “definitely” destroyed.
“The IG’s report said this was a nationwide issue, but I know when we were having our meeting we weren’t talking nationwide – we were talking about our department,” Mitchell said.
“It is the general policy of OSC not to transmit an allegation of wrongdoing to the head of the agency involved, where the agency’s OIG or its delegate, is currently investigating or has investigated, the same allegations. Consequently, this office will take no further action concerning this allegation,” according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel letter.
“That was an excuse” and part of a “cover-up,” Mitchell said.
“I’ve actually filed a lawsuit against them” for wrongful termination and another complaint, Mitchell said. “I filed it in district court in August of last year. It was accepted in September. The court dismissed it and wants me to amend the complaint with additional facts. I’m turning that in this week.”
VA did not return repeated requests for comment. The VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System did not return a request for comment and for an interview with Dr. El-Saden.