An audit team sent to the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center in Gainesville, Florida, discovered a list of patients needing follow-up appointments that was kept on paper instead of in the VA's electronic computer system. As a result, the VA's Office of Inspector General has opened an investigation and three members of the Gainesville VA's supervisory staff have been placed on paid leave, pending the outcome of an investigation, VA Sunshine Healthcare Network (VISN 8) spokeswoman Mary Kay Hollingsworth said Monday. The latest allegation comes as the Department of Veterans Affairs defends itself against claims of potentially deadly delays at other facilities nationwide.
A West Virginia doctor is coming forward with new allegations against the Department of Veterans Affairs, claiming that she too was told to put patients seeking treatment off for months on end -- and that at least two of them committed suicide. The claims add to the mounting controversy surrounding the VA, and allegations in several states that workers were concealing information about the long wait times veterans encountered. Dr. Margaret Moxness, who says she was employed at the Huntington VA Medical Center in Charleston, W.Va., from 2008 to 2010, told "Fox & Friends" on Monday that she was told to delay treatment even after she told supervisors they needed immediate care. She said at least two patients committed suicide while waiting for treatment between appointments..Moxness, a psychiatrist, says the VA administrators lost touch with patients and claims they were compassionless. “They don’t really experience what the doctors and nurses are experiencing, which is the suffering and the pain and the death,” she said...Moxness, who is currently writing a book on suicide, said her patients would be forced to wait “months” for a second visit. She said that “means they’re partially treated, which means they’re worse off than no treatment at all.” Moxness said when she complained to her supervisors that it was harmful to partially treat patients, they stopped talking to her. “I was functionally silenced,” she said.
That account is just about as heartbreaking and infuriating as the original Phoenix report. We've since learned from the whistleblower in Albuquerque that officials have been busy destroying evidence, which suggests that the extent of this fraud may never be fully known. A corroborating official at the same location said VA higher-ups in New Mexico responded to the sordid allegations in Arizona (which touched off a cascade of accusations from coast to coast) by shrugging that the Phoenix system was "better than us at playing the numbers game." That comment indicates that the practice of cooking the books to obscure accurate statistics was at least somewhat widespread. Anecdotal evidence that these abuses were systemic is still accumulating. The Obama transition team was warned about this issue in 2008, after the president-elect had called attention to problems at the VA during the campaign. Nearly identical formal admonitions surfaced again in 2010. Additional troubling symptoms and diagnoses in 2012 and 2013 fell on deaf ears, resulting in at least dozens of deaths. Meanwhile, the VA claims backlog wait time has tripled since 2008, despite a doubling of the budget over roughly the same time period. Media reaction to the administration's handling of these revelations has been overwhelmingly negative. National Journal's Ron Fournier seethes:
News quiz: President Obama and his communications team hope that Americans are: 1) Dumb; 2) Distracted; 3) Numb to government inefficiency; 4) All of above. Answer: 4, all of the above. That answer along with utter incompetence are the best explanations for why the White House thought it could get away with claiming that the departure of Veterans Affairs official Robert Petzel was a step toward accountability for its scandalous treatment of war veterans...For all of its 21st-century savvy in the field of campaign technology, the Obama White House has repeatedly proven that its communications philosophy is stuck in the 20th century. Before the Internet gave voters instantaneous access to information, including every public utterance of the president and his team, White House strategists could hope to wear out the truth: If you said a lie enough, people might believe it. It's harder to BS the public these days. White House press secretary Jay Carney still tries...In Obama's defense, he inherited a dysfunctional VA, and the agency has been overwhelmed by veterans returning from two wars he is winding down. But he pledged to reform the VA after blasting the Bush administration in 2007. Instead of getting better, the health care bureaucracy has worsened and become corrupted. Long delays are covered up and veterans are dying while awaiting care. It's a policy travesty magnified by an insulting public relations strategy.
I'll leave you with Jon Stewart tearing through a solid rant:
One small quibble, and a larger point: Yes, the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars counted toward our annual deficits during the Bush years, but the conflicts were funded through emergency supplementals, rather than through the normal budget process. It's a fair argument to say that those costs should have been reflected in the annual budget (back when we actually did those, as required by law). It's inaccurate to say they "didn't count" when tabulating each year's shortfall. As I've written before, the last Republican-controlled federal budget -- with two wars ongoing -- resulted in a deficit of $161 billion, a fraction of the current administration's record on accumulating red ink. Secondly, Stewart is on point in raging against this national disgrace and calling out politicians for "hitting the snooze button" on an issue they profess to care about. He's also right to cite bureaucratic sclerosis and corruption as a deep and entrenched problem that allows these abuses to calcify. He's livid that our veterans are being treated this way, as he should be. But he's also expressed his strong support for a total government takeover of the entire healthcare system, cheered on by Michael Moore here. His ideology is one of more government, more bureaucracy, more spending. Will the VA scandal -- which has exposed the maddening ineptitude, callousness and rationing that pervades this limited single-payer system that virtually all Americans actually support -- cause him to rethink his "solutions" to America's challenges? Don't count on it.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography