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VA says no proof delays in care caused vets to die


By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Department of Veterans Affairs says investigators have found no proof that delays in care caused any deaths at a VA hospital in Phoenix, deflating an explosive allegation that helped expose a troubled health care system in which veterans waited months for appointments while employees falsified records to cover up the delays.

Revelations that as many as 40 veterans died while awaiting care at the Phoenix VA hospital rocked the agency last spring, bringing to light scheduling problems and allegations of misconduct at other hospitals as well. The scandal led to the resignation of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. In July, Congress approved spending an additional $16 billion to help shore up the system.

The VA's Office of Inspector General has been investigating the delays for months and shared a draft report of its findings with VA officials.

In a written memorandum about the report, VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald said: "It is important to note that while OIG's case reviews in the report document substantial delays in care, and quality-of-care concerns, OIG was unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely quality care caused the death of these veterans."

The inspector general's final report has not yet been issued. The inspector general runs an independent office within the VA.

Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson confirmed the findings in an interview with The Associated Press. Gibson, however, stressed that veterans are still waiting too long for care, an issue the agency is working to fix.

"They looked to see if there was any causal relationship associated with the delay in care and the death of these veterans and they were unable to find one. But from my perspective, that don't make it OK," Gibson said. "Veterans were waiting too long for care and there were things being done, there were scheduling improprieties happening at Phoenix and frankly at other locations as well. Those are unacceptable."

In April, Dr. Samuel Foote, who had worked for the Phoenix VA for more than 20 years before retiring in December, brought the allegations to Congress.

Foote accused Arizona VA leaders of collecting bonuses for reducing patient wait times. But, he said, the purported successes resulted from data manipulation rather than improved service for veterans. He said up to 40 patients died while awaiting care.

In May, the inspector general's office found that 1,700 veterans were waiting for primary care appointments at the Phoenix VA but did not show up on the wait list. "Until that happens, the reported wait times for these veterans has not started," said a report issued in May.

Gibson said the VA reached out to all 1,700 veterans in Phoenix and scheduled care for them. However, he acknowledged there are still 1,800 veterans in Phoenix who requested appointments but will have to wait at least 90 days for care.

The VA has said it is firing three executives of the Phoenix VA hospital. The agency has also said it planned to fire two supervisors and discipline four other employees in Colorado and Wyoming accused of falsifying health care data.

Gibson says he expects the list of disciplined employees to grow. Gibson took over as acting VA secretary when Shinseki resigned. He returned to his job as deputy secretary after McDonald was confirmed.

"The fundamental point here is, we are taking bold and decisive action to fix these problems because it's unacceptable," Gibson said. "We owe veterans, we owe the American people, an apology. We've delivered that apology. We'll keep delivering that apology for our failure to meet their expectations for timely and effective health care."

To help reduce backlogs, the VA is sending more veterans to private doctors for care.

Congress approved $10 billion in emergency spending over three years to pay private doctors and other health professionals to care for veterans who can't get timely appointments at VA hospitals, or who live more than 40 miles from one.

The new law includes $5 billion for hiring more VA doctors, nurses and other medical staff and $1.3 billion to open 27 new VA clinics across the country.

The legislation also makes it easier to fire hospital administrators and senior VA executives for negligence or poor performance.

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gbar879 August 25 2014 at 9:23 PM

Soooo the VA was investigating ITSELF and found no link between waiting times and deaths??? Surprise Surprise...

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16 replies
grubert33 August 25 2014 at 9:43 PM

Nice try liberal media trying to cover up for the hapless, disgraceful, corrupt and incompetent Obama administration.

Flag Reply +66 rate up
27 replies
John Roberson August 25 2014 at 9:29 PM

ah, and is this a cover up or what? This is a Benghazi in spades. If the veterans buy this, without shooting the messengers, I will be totally surprised.

Flag Reply +49 rate up
10 replies
crarob August 25 2014 at 9:45 PM

Of course there is no evidence. They, like the IRS, has tried to ensure it has "disappeared". And of course, the AP, being an obama news service, will cover for them. Hey, did you hear the IRS has discovered that Lois baby's emails can be recovered...they just didn't want to mention it to the various judges, congresspersons, etc., investigating it because it will be very expensive to do. The most lawless administration in history. They make Harding seem saintly in comparison.

Flag Reply +44 rate up
4 replies
Brenda August 25 2014 at 9:46 PM

My father was a WW2 "Combat Veteran." He lived with a steal ball in his knee and a bayonet scar on his back for life from war injuries.

He went back into battle after recovering from both injuries. He didn't wait to be drafted; he enlisted.

The Armed Services made a "commitment" to veterans." Healthcare at VA Hospitals was part of that commitment.

Most of the VA Staff are good, decent, hardworking people who care about veterans.

Many VA Facilities are understaffed and underfunded. The veterans and employees suffer.

Flag Reply +42 rate up
17 replies
Machismo August 25 2014 at 9:43 PM

This is exactly the problem with Government ran organizations, no accountability or repercussions for stupidity or ignorance. Just excuses and "whatever" JMO

Flag Reply +36 rate up
4 replies
lov2elkhnt August 25 2014 at 9:34 PM

Now how friggin dumb? If your cookin the books and running 2 sets with one to show and one to bury, which one would the feds be looking at??? Duh

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2 replies
katyclaire lov2elkhnt August 25 2014 at 11:15 PM

So they don't have time to take care of the patients but you think they have time to keep 2 sets of books and the even the set they hand over shows wait times are way too long? Your conspiracy theory is silly.

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kevj1 lov2elkhnt August 26 2014 at 12:42 AM

To : katyclaire
It is NO CONSPIRACY THEORY
Some caring workers were fired for no longer following orders to keep two sets of books, and lie to Veterans. That's how this came to light. Obama wanted to throw more money at it. The VA's budget tripled since 2000, and many years they can't spend what they had.

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2 replies
Ron kevj1 August 26 2014 at 11:46 AM

Hey dim bulb: do you think the VA budget tripled since 2000 because of the increase in VETS? Duh

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SweetfeetBaby kevj1 August 26 2014 at 12:27 PM

The budget has tripled (doubled in constant dollars) since 2000 because already existing Vets are aging. There are/were almost 9 million Viet Nam era Vets who quite naturally have required more care as they age. Later era Vets haven't really hit the VA as yet in any numbers.
And yes, when employes are cooking the books, which do YOU think comes first... taking care of Vets, or taking care of the books?
I am unaware of any VA employes being fired for no longer following orders and keeping 2 sets of books. Workers were threatened.
The VA has many fine, caring, competent employes. This catasstrophe came at the hands of higher level administrators "managing" he books to ensure their own bonuses of up to $9,000 per year. Every one should be fired, and some of them, if not all, should be criminally prosecuted., as we know many older people die when they are denied proper medical care. A good prosecuter will find those deaths in no time.

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bs August 25 2014 at 9:40 PM

Just like the IRS doesn't target groups. Just like IA doesn't read your e-mails.This is your government talking. Whose BS are you going to believe? Congress just gave them 17 bil to clean up their mess after the usual 35 bil.

Flag Reply +27 rate up
5 replies
jerry August 25 2014 at 9:25 PM

sounds like obummer trash taslk to me.

Flag Reply +21 rate up
3 replies
bert hall August 26 2014 at 4:31 AM

PRESIDENT OBAMA YOUR DOMESTIC DISASTERS-
BENGAZHI
IRS
OBAMACARE
VA-VETERANS
CIA SPYING
FAST AND FURIOUS
YOUR FOREIGN POLICIES ARE A DISATER WHICH WILL START THE NEXT WORLD WAR. WORST PRESIDENT IN AMERICAN HISTORY

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5 replies
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