As Americans recognize Memorial Day by paying tribute to the efforts and sacrifices of our veterans, let’s spend some time getting up to speed on the newest scandal out of the Obama administration – falsifying wait times at VA hospitals, especially in Phoenix where 40 veterans may have died waiting for treatment.
USA Today provides a timeline of the VA scandal that begins back in early 2012 when a VA emergency room doctor, Katherine Mitchell, warned the director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, Sharon Helman, that the Phoenix ER was overwhelmed with patients and dangerous. Perhaps wait times for office visits had something to do with the overcrowded ER. Mitchell claims she was subsequently transferred out of the ER.
Mitchell did not give up, however. In September 2013 she filed a confidential complaint to the VA Office of Inspector General via Senator John McCain’s office. Mitchell’s persistence was awarded by being placed on administrative leave. In May of this year, she went public with her allegations.
USA Today’s timeline also chronicles VA internist’s Dr. Sam Foote’s efforts. In October 2013, he too filed a complaint with the VA Office of Inspector General suggesting that any success the VA had in reducing wait times was due to manipulated data and he claimed that veterans were dying while on wait lists. In December 2013, Foote retired and met with a reporter from the Arizona Republic to make his accusations public.
In April, the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs held a hearing on the issue and in May, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki finally got around to placing Sharon Helman on administrative leave.
And so there you have it. Two years after the first report of serious problems in treating veterans at the Phoenix VA and seven months after the first allegation of veterans dying, and all we have to show for it is a director being placed on administrative leave – not fired mind you, administrative leave.
Fast forward to May 21st when we finally hear from President Obama. He assured Americans, as he has since the beginning days of his administration, that he would address the problems of inadequate care at VA hospitals and that he would get to the bottom of the allegations.
“So if these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable. It is disgraceful and I will not tolerate it, period.”
Americans have heard President Obama exclaim, “period,” before when we were told we can keep our health care plan and our doctor if we like them. You’ve got to wonder how seriously he means, “period,” this time.
The President also outlined a four step plan to address the issue:
“First, Anybody found to have manipulated or falsified records at VA facilities has to be held accountable…Once we know the facts, I assure you, if there is misconduct, it will be punished.
Second, I want to know the full scope of this problem. That’s why I ordered Secretary Shinseki to investigate. Today, he updated me on his review which is looking not just at the Phoenix facility, but also VA facilities across the nation, and I expect preliminary results from that review next week.
Third, I directed Rob Nabors to conduct a broader review of the VA Health Administration, the part of the VA that delivers health care to our veterans…I expect that full report from Rob next month.
Fourth, I said that I expect everyone involved to work with Congress which has an important oversight role to play. I welcome Congress as a partner in our efforts.”
Americans who have followed the Benghazi and IRS scandals are familiar with this kind of rhetoric from President Obama, and by now know not to expect a resolution any time soon, if at all.
President Obama says nothing about clearing patient back logs, putting additional doctors on staff in Phoenix, at least temporarily, or asking for emergency funding from Congress.
Dr. Sam Foote has written an op-ed in the New York Times explaining why he blew the whistle on the VA and outlining ways to address poor performance in VA hospitals. We hear nothing from President Obama about reaching out to the people with first-hand knowledge of the VA problems to make way for a faster resolution.
Dr Foote and Senator McCain have suggested issuing cards to veterans that will allow them access to private health care centers. Not a bad idea, as long as we still have a private health care system.
Meanwhile, the bureaucracy is buckling down to protect itself by investigating itself. Secretary Shinseki who has overseen the VA since January 2009 is leading the investigation despite calls for his resignation. And President Obama’s own Deputy Chief of Staff, Rob Nabors, has been temporarily assigned to the VA to investigate.
Our government’s meager response to the VA scandal should cause Americans to worry – not only for our veterans, but for themselves and for their families as well.
The state of the Veterans Health Administration presages the fate of the American health care system under Obamacare. It is what we will all experience, eventually, as Obamacare steadily dismantles a great and compassionate health care system that provides care to all Americans, including the uninsured.
VA health care is government run, single payer health care through and through. It is bureaucracy deciding who can get care, when, and for what. It’s government allowing some to be saved while others die quietly on wait lists. It’s a hollow promise to provide care to those who we all agree deserve it the most – those who sacrificed beyond measure for our freedom.
If a government run health care system will not honor its commitment to our veterans, how can anyone be silly and irresponsible enough to believe it will honor its commitment to the rest of us?