The top watchdog at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has confirmed allegations that the agency has repeatedly lied to the media and Congress about how many veterans suffered and died from treatment delays.
In preparation for a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, the VA sent Congress a fact sheet in April which claimed that only 23 veterans had died and 76 suffered serious injury while waiting for care since 1999.
While that might appear to be a decent track record for a total period of 15 years, in reality, the inspector general discovered that the VA lied about how far they reached back. The agency only dug up data from 2007 and onward and decided not look any further. What this means, according to the watchdog, is that there were either “overstatements or understatements of institutional disclosures or deaths.”
And although the VA stated that the number of medical appointments delayed over 90 days has declined from 2 million to 300,000, it turns out that the VA has no idea how the number was even lowered, or from where the statistic originated. There is no proof any of the veterans who fell through the cracks received proper care.
The VA fact sheet also attempted to pass off unresolved consultation statistics as nothing more than bad data collection, but now it appears from a series of interviews that VA staff believe that the unresolved consultations do in fact reflect poor care, rather than poor documentation.
Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, expressed outraged at the news.
“VA’s statistics regarding the number of veterans harmed by department delays in care are almost certainly wildly inaccurate, and we may never know the actual number of veterans affected by gaps in the VA system that existed for years,” Miller said in a statement.
“Accountability for the VA leaders responsible for misleading Congress and the public on this important matter is sorely needed,” he added.
The inspector general instructed the VA to quickly find out whether patients from unresolved consults have received the care they need, and the VA agreed to conduct a systematic assessment to address unresolved consults, with the target date set at February 2015. A recent survey confirmed the endless staff and administrative problems at the VA.
Out of large federal agencies, the VA ranked second to last for worst places to work in the government. The VA is also looking into potential disciplinary measures of negligent staff as a result of the report.
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