The unfolding VA scandal has not received the attention it merits and deserves. The crisis at the border and recent Supreme Court rulings have pushed these horror stories to the backburner. But they warrant additional and increased attention.
In case you missed it, retiring Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) published a report last week explaining in great detail the problems plaguing the VA Health Care System. He summed up his findings thusly: “Over the past decade, more than 1,000 veterans may have died as a result of VA malfeasance, and the VA has paid out nearly $1 billion to veterans and their families for its medical malpractice.”
At the same time, we now know that government workers were “cooking the books” to increase their own performance-based bonuses while veterans suffered and received substandard care. Many died as a consequence of these unconscionable practices.
One of those veterans who died was Vietnam veteran Doug Chase. According to the Associated Press, he discovered he had a brain tumor roughly three years ago. But only last month did his widow receive a letter in the mail from the VA informing her they wanted to schedule an appointment with her husband. The problem? He died in 2012 -- two years before the letter was even sent -- a fact that the federal agency should have been well aware of:
The Veterans Affairs Department is apologizing to a Massachusetts woman for offering an appointment to her husband almost two years after he died. …
In 2012, she tried to move his medical care to the VA hospital in Bedford. They waited four months and never heard anything. He died in August 2012.
Suzanne Chase says two weeks ago she got a letter addressed to her husband, saying he could call to make an appointment.
She says the VA had to know her husband was dead because she applied for funeral benefits and was denied.
The department said in a statement: "We regret any distress our actions caused to the veteran's widow and family."
If this is the standard of care the VA provides -- and the way it treats dying veterans and their families -- every American should be outraged and concerned. This story is a scandal in and of itself. American veterans deserve better. And so do their families.
Let us hope, then, that a change in leadership at the VA ensures this never happens again.