Fiasco: 57,000 Veterans Are Still Waiting For Treatment

Matt Vespa
By Matt Vespa | June 9, 2014 | 5:04 PM EDT

Veterans Affairs just cannot catch a break - and either can its patients. What's happening at that department is an abject fiasco.  The interim IG report noted that "inappropriate scheduling issues" were a systemic problem within the VA health care system. The internal audit that was ordered prior to then- VA Secretary Eric Shinseki showed that 62% of VA health facilities had at least one instance of veterans being pushed onto secret waiting lists.  Now, we discover that 57,000 veterans are waiting to be treated.

This is an explicit display of failed government-run health care.

More than 57,000 U.S. military veterans have been waiting 90 days or more for their first VA medical appointments, and an additional 64,000 appear to have fallen through the cracks, never getting appointments after enrolling and requesting them, the Veterans Affairs Department said Monday.

It's not just a backlog problem, the wide-ranging review indicated. Thirteen percent of schedulers in the facility-by-facility report on 731 hospitals and outpatient clinics reported being told by supervisors to falsify appointment schedules to make patient waits appear shorter.

The audit is the first nationwide look at the VA network in the uproar that began with reports two months ago of patients dying while awaiting appointments and of cover-ups at the Phoenix VA center. A preliminary review last month found that long patient waits and falsified records were "systemic" throughout the VA medical network, the nation's largest single health care provider serving nearly 9 million veterans.

But, that's not all.  It seems like the VA has also dropped the ball on treating veterans with mental health issues (via National Review):

As the VA scandal continues to make headlines, the media has paid much attention to the long wait times and their effects on veterans' physical health, as well as to the efforts of VA employees to cover up their shortcomings.

But the VA has also repeatedly failed to provide prompt and adequate mental-health services to veterans. Furthermore, records dating back as far as 2008 call into question whether the VA has tried to cover up veteran

suicides and game the numbers for the scheduling of mental-health services.


The VA is still struggling to overcome years of mismanagement, delays, and data inconsistencies that can be interpreted as incompetence at best and a deliberate cover-up at worst.

Concern about the VA's handling of mental health became a hot topic in 2007, when CBS News conducted a five-month, 45-state investigative project that examined veteran suicides during 2005. Its reporters discovered that veterans were "more than twice as likely to commit suicide . . . than non-veterans." Overall, it found 6,256 veteran suicides in 2005 - or 120 a week.

Those numbers contrasted starkly with the statistics the VA reported: It was claiming only 790 veterans had committed suicide in 2007. In fact, the VA's head of mental health, Ira Katz, told CBS at the time that "there is no epidemic in suicide in the VA," and when the story was published, he criticized CBS's statistics on veteran suicide in 2005 as "not, in fact, an accurate reflection of the rate.

The National Review piece by Jillian Melchior tragically recounts a Navy veteran who was struggling with mental illness and alcoholism.  He was treated poorly by the VA, denied immediate access to treatment, and eventually committed suicide by hanging himself.

On the issue of treatment, noted how whistleblowers from across the country were coming forward detailing the horrid conditions within some of these VA health facilities, ranging from improper stocking of critical equipment that led one patient to choke to death on his own vomit to emergency codes not being answered promptly.

In Colorado, one VA doctor told a Navy veteran afflicted with prostate cancer, which they had repeatedly missed, that he had no time to go over the results so he better "Google it:"

Two years ago, Navy veteran Michael Beckley learned that Veterans Affairs had repeatedly missed his prostate cancer.

He said he got the news in a room "the size of a broom closet." In a hospital hallway, he had caught up with the urologist who tested him, and he asked for the results. The doctor took him into the closest room, told him the news was bad and said he was too busy to explain the test numbers. "Google it," he advised. Beckley, a former fighter pilot, sat on the floor and cried.

Having experienced a decade of frustration with the VA, he demanded to see the administrator. "This hospital - you guys - killed me," he said.

Instead, he said, a team of federal police officers led him out of Denver's VA hospital.


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