Lawmakers call for tighter grip on VA hospitals

Senator: There is "credible and specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing"
Associated Press
May 25, 2014

 

The chairmen of House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees on Sunday decried long waits and backlogs at the nation's VA hospitals but stopped short of calling for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

"You've got an entrenched bureaucracy that exists out there that is not held accountable, that is shooting for goals, goals that are not helping the veterans," said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House panel

"I think some people may by cooking the books" to suggest waiting times are shorter that they actually are, said Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who chairs the counterpart Senate committee.

Both chairmen were interviewed on CNN's "State of the Union."

Meanwhile, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that the Justice Department "has to be involved." He said there is "credible and specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing across the country" at VA hospitals.

"We're not rushing to judgment. But the Department of Justice can convene a grand jury, if necessary," Blumenthal said.

Lawmakers from both parties have pressed for policy changes and better management as the Department of Veterans Affairs confronts allegations about treatment delays and falsified records at VA centers around the country. The program serves nearly 9 million veterans.

President Barack Obama did not mention the VA issue in a speech on Sunday to U.S. troops in Afghanistan during a surprise visit.

"The VA really didn't factor into the planning for the trip at all," said Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser. "The VA is obviously something he's going to continue to work on very hard in the coming days and weeks back home as well."

Meanwhile, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a pre-recorded interview broadcast Sunday on ABC's "This Week," called the VA's current problems "outrageous — if the allegations are documented and proven. And I suspect some of them will be."

"They've got to be held accountable," Dempsey said, adding that Shinseki "has made it very clear that they will be held accountable,"

The department's inspector general says 26 VA facilities are under investigation, including the Phoenix VA hospital, where a former clinic director says as many as 40 veterans may have died while awaiting treatment.

Officials also are investigating claims that VA employees have falsified appointment records to cover up delays in care. An initial review of 17 people who died while awaiting appointments in Phoenix found that none of their deaths appeared to have been caused by delays in treatment.

The allegations have raised fresh concerns about the administration's management of a department that has been struggling to keep up with the influx of veterans returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Vietnam veterans needing more care as they age.

"You know, if we are going to send people off to war, we have a solemn promise to make sure that when they come home, we are going to take care of them," Sanders said.

The two committee chairmen appeared a day after the Obama administration agreed to recommendations from lawmakers in both parties and said it would allow more veterans to get care at private hospitals to help ease pressure on backlogged VA hospitals dealing with patients from the wars on terrorism as well as treating old soldiers from prior conflicts including Afghanistan and Iraq.

The problem is not a lack of resources, said Miller. "If money was the issue, this problem would have been solved a long time ago. VA is not using the resources that they're provided appropriately."

The VA says it is taking some of the pressure off its hospital system by allowing more veterans to be treated at private hospitals.

The VA spent about $4.8 billion last year on medical care at non-VA hospitals and clinics, spokeswoman Victoria Dillon said. That amounts to about 10 percent of health care costs for the Veterans Health Administration, the agency's health care arm.

It was not clear how much the new initiative would cost, Dillon said.

Said Sanders: "I think it's unfair to blame Shinseki for all the problems. Can he do better? Yes."

 

Comments

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

So the answer to the flawed system is to continue the system and/or create another system to control the first system that wasn't under control despite us having other systems to watch systems like this?

Hello, McFly? Hello?

"The VA says it is taking some of the pressure off its hospital system by allowing more veterans to be treated at private hospitals."

THIS is a good start, but how much money can be saved and quality of care improved if veterans can just receive either a voucher or a special HSA account with automatic government contributions so THEY can go to the doctor/hospital of THEIR choice? Local. Accessible. The same doctor every visit?

Yet in the face of this very unfortunate failure of service (because it affects human life) there are many who want this exact standard of care imposed on all Americans. I just can't understand it. With examples all around of results similar to this, somehow this is the direction we need to go?

I am blessed to have veterans in my community. I have learned many stories from them. The good, the bad, and aspects of life after service such as PTSD. Instead of tightening the stranglehold over them for their service that saw many of them disabled physically or mentally why not let them go to be free where they want to live and receive care?

Princess Leia: The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.

Except in this case we are talking about human life and dignity of veterans receiving care and the compassion and professionalism of those giving it with their own bureaucracy ensnaring them.

KnuckleDragger

Hero, If you want to know what a single payer, government run national healthcare system would look like, look no further than the VA. This is what the public would be subject to only on a larger scale. I have to ask people who support a single payer system if VA style health care is what they want? Ask vets who use the VA how long it takes them to get a specialty appointment at the VA, or if they need to be admitted how many days they have to wait on a waiting list to get into the VA.

Contango

Re: "a single payer, government run national healthcare system would look like, look no further than the VA."

Paul Krugman and other progressive dimwits have suggested such.

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/ful...

----------------

'Slightly' off-topic:

The UK Independence Party (Ukip)(classic conservative - libertarian) won BIG in the UK Parliamentary elections yesterday!

"Ukip storms European elections":

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/...

FYI: Ukip wants to partially dismantle National Health Service (NHS) and provide for a voucher system.

Wonder if we can find a birth cert. for Ukip's Nigel Farage to run for POTUS?

The Big Dog's back

The right wingnut tea party lost BIG in the primaries in the UNITED STATES!

Contango

Re: "The right wingnut tea party lost BIG in the primaries,"

Thanks to your BIG spending pals - the Repubs.

The Liberal Democrats got trounced in the UK elections.

Precursor of the U.S. 2014 mid-term election results for the American Democrat-Bolshevik party?

The Big Dog's back

Earth to pooh, this is the United States not the United Kingdom.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Yup and it's sad that people like Sen. McConnell get to run again. It isn't that the Tea Party candidates lost, in those races the American people lost to entrenched establishment incumbents. I can only look at results like that and see that the Republican Party will soon come to an end and it will be their last bitter, clinging faults for a party to want to be in power instead of people wanting to be in service.

The Democratic Party will see such an end, too, but not until those within its structure realize that they can have it better and that they are just as much in a pay-to-play-party as the Republicans. The President's visit to a private mansion the other day (the fifth party fundraiser in three weeks) was clear proof of this.

That's why I'd appreciate your support in an amendment to impose term limits on Congress and to restore the Senate to being the assembly of the states instead of a meaningless second House of Representatives.

OMG.LOL.WT_

Krugman article was from 2006. Before Vets from Bush's wars overwhelmed the system.

Contango

Re: "Krugman (snip)"

Sorry Sport, he hasn't changed his stripes. From 2011:

See: "Vouchers for Veterans" NYT, November 13, 2011

The Big Dog's back

You right wingnuts and your vouchers. They make good TP and that's about it.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Meanwhile veterans are dying waiting for improper care in long lines at distant facilities. Seems like we really need more of a system that has proven failures despite several governmental departments overseeing them. But instead of empowering veterans with choice of doctor or hospital, allowing them to see the doctors they want to see in the cities in which they live at less cost than a centrally-planned system, what do you suggest?

The Big Dog's back

Gee, we wouldn't have the need for so many VA facilities if we hadn't gotten into 2 illegal wars.

freespeech1

hey dog poo Hillary voted to go to war, what do you have to say about that? Actually all the dims voted to go!! Also please explain how these were illegal wars! I cant wait to hear your response.

Darwin's choice

Published: 24 May 2014.

President Obama,

On this Memorial Day I can’t help but think of the many veterans who have given their lives to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy today, and quite frankly one that so many Americans take for granted. As you’re playing your 165th round of golf this weekend you can count on our warriors to protect you and to protect this great nation.

From the Civil War to the wars in the deserts of the Middle East, our brave men and women have given their lives for freedoms that can only be found in America. Generations of selfless Americans have stepped up to fight for a cause greater than themselves. Freedom is never free, and the price of our freedom has been paid with the blood of our finest Americans. Your daughters have been fortunate enough to reap the freedoms that so many have sacrificed their lives for. Without these heroes you would have never have had the opportunity to become the President of this great nation.

Sadly, the men and women who have volunteered to fight the in the most extreme conditions in the world are coming back only to find themselves engaged in a new war at home. They have now found themselves in a war with your incompetent administration, who’s scandal ridden legacy has finally hit an all-time low. I can’t help but feel the deepest disgust for the pain you and your administration have caused the families who have lost their heroes battling your war against our veterans back home. I can’t think of more shameless way to for this country to dishonor its veterans. And sadly, it’s the lack of your leadership and accountability that lead to these failures.

These men and women who bravely fought in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars have been forced to rely on your useless bureaucratic employees for their health care. These federal employees disrespected these men and women and the sacrifices they have made in the worst imaginable way. They ignored their pleas for help and in many cases left them to die in favor of hefty government bonuses for exceptional performance. We all know you and your regime doesn’t give a damn about these heroes. Your disdain for America and her greatness has never been a secret. You were raised to hate the “American Empire” and were taught that the American military is the enemy. It was easier for you to just ignore the Veteran Affairs crisis as you crisscrossed America fundraising for your fellow Democrats.

I remember candidate Obama promising to overhaul the VA and reduce the backlog. You claimed that America’s support for its veterans is obvious by the way we treat our vets. You really nailed that one didn’t you?

Just like you were going to fix Detroit or fix foreign policy. Your high school like approach to solving complex issues can’t be fixed by tweeting hashtags with propaganda to people who want to kill us. Anyone with an ounce of common sense can see you’re unfit to lead our nation, let alone act as our Commander In Chief. What our country needs now, more than ever is real leadership, someone who doesn’t wait for a crisis, but is able to foresee an issue and deal with it before it happens. Unfortunately for America, you’ve been too busy campaigning and don’t have time to deal with the health care crisis of our veterans. The only thing you seem to care about is your own radical agenda, and now our vets are paying for your negligence with their lives.

As I sit here typing this out I’m dealing with my own VA nightmare which involves the Phoenix VA. I have given 3 limbs for this country, but apparently that is not enough. A “clerical error” made by a VA employee has resulted in nearly a year of abuse and mismanagement of my case. In other words, the VA is stealing over $7000 from my disability compensation that I earned when I lost 3 of my limbs for our country.

On this Memorial Day, as I battle your incompetent bureaucrats my family would like to thank you for once again failing our veterans. We can’t help but wonder about the disastrous socialized medicine program that we will surely be dealing with if Obamacare is allowed to be fully implemented. If our incompetent VA cannot handle government healthcare for a fraction of our population, who would be foolish enough to believe a massive health care system designed to provide health care for all American’s would be any different? You can’t even find someone to build a competent website to work for your socialized medicine program when you had your name attached to it, so why would you care about our veterans when you could so easily push the blame off on someone else?

You have not only failed our veterans, you have failed America in every way imaginable. You have purposely divided us by race, political parties, and socioeconomic status in order to push a radical agenda on America that can only be passed when you have successfully divided all Americans. Your entire administration is incompetent and you have set America on a path for certain failure.

So, on this Memorial Day, as we honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation, I’d like to thank you, our Commander In Chief for not even caring enough to provide us with quality health care.

Brian Kolfage, Sra, USAF Ret.

The Bizness

I respect this mans point of view but many vets have nothing but good things to say about the VA

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

That may be, but it is clear there are major problems within the system. Hence why it would be wise to look into other means to care after them that are less centralized, more efficient in cost/care, and empowers them to make their own choices. Can you think of any reason why a veteran couldn't be set up with (for example, other ideas exist) an HSA, have it filled with a stipend from the government, and be able to be used at FRMC or FTMC if they lived in the area here?

The Big Dog's back

Our military is filled with young Americans who sign on a dotted line to give everything in service to our nation. When I was 17-years-old, I signed on that line and proudly wore the uniform of the United States Navy for 20 years. As any service member knows, country transcends party, but nonetheless I identified myself as member of the Republican Party. This year, for the first time in my life, I will vote for a Democrat for president: President Barack Obama. For veterans across generations and those still in uniform today, President Obama has consistently stood by us and our families.

Since day one President Obama has shown steady leadership and outlined a clear vision for an America that is strong at home and abroad. He understands what our service men and women have given and he's working tirelessly to honor our country's commitment to that sacrifice. He signed the largest increase of funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs in 30 years to ensure veterans receive the health care benefits they've earned, expanding mental health services and counseling particularly for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. In Virginia alone, more than 800,000 veterans benefited from those increases, securing much needed access to care in rural areas and for those with special health care needs. President Obama also signed two tax credits into law encouraging businesses to hire unemployed veterans and wounded warriors because he knows the economy will benefit from our skills, our commitment and our motivation.

The president knows education is the gateway to opportunity, a bridge to the American dream for veterans. That's why President Obama improved the Post-9/11 GI bill, expanding veterans' educational opportunities, helping more than 40,000 Virginia veterans and family members pursue higher education. As part of his Wall Street reform law he put a consumer cop on the beat to crack down on colleges and predatory lenders that prey on veterans and military families by misleading them about financial aid, job placement programs and home mortgages. And he showed the moral leadership to ensure any American can serve the country they love without living a lie about who they are or who they love.

President Obama understands our nation's commitment to our veterans never ends. But when Governor Romney and today's Republican Party look at our military, they only see weapons systems like ships, tanks and missiles, and tangible capital, not the people -- the human capital -- who are truly the "weapons system" that makes the United States military the best in the world.

Rather than honor the sacrifices of our service members and families and make them a priority, Governor Romney has chosen not to propose any significant plan to directly put veterans back to work. He called ending the war in Iraq "tragic," and criticized the president's plan to end the war in Afghanistan. Governor Romney even suggested turning veterans' health care into a voucher system, which the VFW opposes. As if that's not enough, we can also look at his record. As Governor of Massachusetts he cut veteran outreach and other services by hundreds of thousands of dollars in his first month in office, and proposed a reduction in Massachusetts' government hiring preferences for veterans.

With one war behind us and another one winding down, it's also wise to look at Governor Romney's current plan for the military and veterans. Under the Romney-Ryan plan the government will add $2 trillion in military spending that the Pentagon hasn't asked for, with no clear way to pay for it, while also pushing a budget plan that could cut $11 billion from the VA. He wants to spend more on war and less on repaying the men and women who fight that war. These policies will have a negative impact on the national security of the United States by unnecessarily increasing the debt and breaking our nation's sacred promise to our veterans.

For President Obama, his plan is clear: it's about supporting our veterans and their families in every way possible -- an issue that's very near and dear to my heart. While our service members are away fighting for our country, the president is making sure their families are being taken care of. No administration has done more for military families and service members, from ending one war and winding down another, to ensuring returning veterans have the resources they need to get jobs and health care and encouraging the private sector to provide jobs to military spouses.

That's what matters most, and it speaks volumes. The heart -- and the might -- of the U.S. military are the men, women and families who put the security of this country first. And President Obama is a decisive Commander-in-Chief who puts veterans and military families first. Whether our troops are overseas, coming home, or have been home for decades, the president is working to give all of us everything we need to fulfill our pledge to our country, our families, and ourselves.

When we sign our name on the dotted line, we are serving our country. And when we check the box on our ballot for President Obama, we move our country forward and ensure a secure future for our service men and women, and our veterans. I encourage all American's who support our military and veterans to do the same.

Tyre Nelson

U.S. Navy Veteran

OMG.LOL.WT_

Give the author credit: Tyre Nelson, U.S. Navy Veteran.

The Big Dog's back

OK

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I wish you didn't have to prompt him to give credit for that letter, but it is what it is with Big Dog. It is interesting that when I read the two letters posted above one sounds like a passionate, authentic outreach to the President and the other sounds like a sterile campaign speech. One sounds like the struggle of a man who is caught between gears of an unfathomable machine and the other a propagandist piece of thin, gilded panels covering the outside of the machine to make it seem not so bad.

I won't question that both were written by veterans and those veterans are such because they served our country regardless of political affiliation, but for those who read the two which one actually seems (even in opinion only) more authentic?

How about this letter, which isn't even partisan at all? This letter that resounds across the country and washes away partisan divides. This letter read by a much more passionate and prolific speaker than the current one who has yet to deliver any speech that remotely comes close to this and the many others that were delivered: http://youtu.be/C1rsSURQzpw

The Big Dog's back

But you are questioning. Anytime someone has to preface the slam they are about to make, you know it's intentional.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I am not questioning that either author is a veteran even though it presumably could be questioned. Their veteran status was even appreciated by me as I said regardless of their political affiliation or writing style. The "slam" was an open question to those who read each letter to, based on the context and style alone, see which one appears to actually tell their tale better.

One was a personal story filled with details about the veteran's life and how he feels he has personally been disappointed by the performance of the VA and President. The other was a sterile list of bullet points which have no context and don't even question the fact that the VA could be better. Both can be equally true.

So with those points listen in favor/against each letter...which letter delivers its message better? That was my question.

Darwin's choice

And, that "endorsing" letter is several years old. I'd love to hear Mr. Tyre's comments now about his glowing endorsement of obama. 3-6 years offers a lot of time for recinding a statement.....!

The Big Dog's back

durwood, you could get any right wingnut that also was in the military to write what you posted.

Darwin's choice

You are a very disturbed troll......pathetic!

The Big Dog's back

There is no cure for right wingnutism.

Darwin's choice

Smith and Wesson makes a cure for you.....

obama/fail
big dog/flaming fail