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VA review finds ‘significant and chronic’ failures

By
From page A1 | June 28, 2014 |

WASHINGTON — A review ordered by President Barack Obama of the troubled Veterans Affairs health care system concluded that medical care for veterans is beset by “significant and chronic system failures,” substantially verifying problems raised by whistleblowers and internal and congressional investigators.

A summary of the review by deputy White House chief of staff Rob Nabors says the Veterans Health Administration must be restructured and that a “corrosive culture” has hurt morale and affected the timeliness of health care. The review also found that a 14-day standard for scheduling veterans’ medical appointments is unrealistic and has been susceptible to manipulation.

The White House released a summary of the review following President Barack Obama’s meeting Friday with Nabors and Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson.

The review came in the wake of reports of lengthy wait times for appointments and treatment delays in VA facilities nationwide.

The review offers a series of recommendations, including a need for more doctors, nurses and trained administrative staff. Those recommendations are likely to face skepticism among some congressional Republicans who have blamed the VA’s problems on mismanagement, not lack of resources.

The White House released the summary after Obama returned from a two-day trip to Minneapolis and promptly ducked into an Oval Office to get an update on the administration’s response to the VA troubles from Gibson and Nabors.

“We know that unacceptable, systemic problems and cultural issues within our health system prevent veterans from receiving timely care,” Gibson said in a statement following the meeting. “We can and must solve these problems as we work to earn back the trust of veterans.”

Among Nabors’ findings:

— The VA acts with little transparency or accountability and many recommendations to improve care are slowly implemented or ignored. Concerns raised by the public, monitors or even VA leadership are viewed by those responsible for VA’s health care delivery as “exaggerated, unimportant, or ‘will pass.'”

— The VA’s lack of resources is widespread in the health care field as a whole and in the federal government. But the VA has been unable to connect its budget needs to specific outcomes.

—The VA needs to better prepare for changes in the demographic profile of veterans, including more female veterans, a surge in mental health needs and a growing number of older veterans.

Since reports surfaced of treatment delays and of patients dying while on waiting lists, the VA has been the subject of internal, independent and congressional investigations. The VA has confirmed that dozens of veterans died while awaiting appointments at VA facilities in the Phoenix area, although officials say it’s unclear whether the delays were the cause of the deaths.

One VA audit found that 10 percent of veterans seeking medical care at VA hospitals and clinics have to wait at least 30 days for an appointment. More than 56,000 veterans have had to wait at least three months for initial appointments, the report said, and an additional 46,000 veterans who asked for appointments over the past decade never got them.

This week, the independent Office of Special Counsel concluded there was “a troubling pattern of deficient patient care” at the Veterans Affairs that VA officials downplayed. Among the findings were canceled appointments with no follow up, contaminated drinking water and improper handling of surgical equipment.

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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Discussion | 8 comments

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  • rlw895June 28, 2014 - 10:30 pm

    More transparency. What a stinking mess.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. SmithJune 28, 2014 - 10:58 pm

    Puh-leeze. It is not transparency to throw the VA under the bus. This won't blow back on Obama, so he's fine with it. If it could be laid at his feet, you can bet he would be spouting off about " not a smidgen of truth to this phony scandal."

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895June 28, 2014 - 11:03 pm

    It can't be laid at his feet?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. SmithJune 28, 2014 - 11:17 pm

    Are you saying he is culpable in this? Won't matter, anyhow. The media will whitewash it.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895June 29, 2014 - 12:24 am

    Not really, but it could still be laid at his feet by his critics. You think the press is whitewashing it?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. SmithJune 29, 2014 - 7:36 am

    After CNN broke the story, it took the msm over two weeks to reluctantly begin covering the scandal. They do so grudginly now, but it is clear that their instinct to avoid covering anything that will aid conservatives in criticizing Obama remains ever-present. It is symptomatic of the liberal media. No, he won't get tarred with this one, even though he promised to fix the VA when he took office, and does truly deserve major criticism--it's been six years!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895June 29, 2014 - 8:20 am

    Mr.S: CNN did break the story, and maybe the other media didn't at first give it the attention it deserved because they had to catch up! This is truly a scandal that I believe would have made Obama an easy target for his "irrational opponents," yet the response has been amazingly bipartisan and without finger-pointing. I don't think the media has had anything to do with that. I can only assume that both parties know they are culpable and the problem was so well covered up within the VA, they both are giving the other the benefit of the doubt as to how they missed it. Do you agree?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rick WoodJune 29, 2014 - 8:28 am

    The question I have is, is there anyone in the VA hierarchy who isn't tainted by this scandal? At some point, someone who knew what was going on didn't tell his superiors and thereby protected the activities below. That person or those people need to be ferreted out and fired or demoted. The severe discipline might go further, but that could so disable the VA as to be counterproductive (remember disbanding the Baathist army in Iraq?). There needs to be an amnesty for those people if they don't cover it up and help clean up the mess. They know eyes are upon them and there is a "new sheriff in town." That would be the fastest and probably best way to proceed. It will take time for the additional funding congress is going to provide to have an effect.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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