Yesterday’s release of the VA OIG investigation report shows at least 30 Phoenix VA employees were engaged in active fraud against veterans. Yet, the VA OIG claims the evidence of wait list deaths comes up short. But regardless of how VA spins it, the harm caused by VA are clearly crimes against humanity.
Sharon Helman and other Phoenix VA executives and senior clinical staff were aware of the manipulative tactics to falsely show the facility was performing better than it was. These manipulative tactics resulted in improved earnings by these same managers through performance bonuses in some instances.
Where is the justice?
Helman herself mandated her “Wildly Important Goal” (WIG) to improve access to health care, which invariably led to the manipulations since VA did not have adequate resources to meet the metrics. Leave it up to higher VA executives to come up with something so hair brained while knowingly harming veterans.
The VA OIG report indicates the former Deputy Under Secretary for Health waived the requirement for VHA facilities to certify the data integrity affecting wait times. The waiver served as a pass since certifications could lead to criminal convictions should a problem like the wait list scandal surface with enough momentum encourage the FBI and White House to ensure accountability through prosecution.
The cases depicted in the OIG report were outrageous and it troubles me how VA OIG is still reluctant to admit Phoenix VA killed veterans. The 45 cases VA OIG highlighted are shaming and it seems plausible that deaths could easily result from the problems.
The report recommended the following:
- We recommended the VA Secretary direct the Veterans Health Administration to review the cases identified in this report to determine the appropriate response to possible patient injury and allegations of poor quality of care. For patients who suffered adverse outcomes, the Phoenix VA Health Care System should confer with Regional Counsel regarding the appropriateness of disclosures to patients and families.
- We recommended the VA Secretary require the Phoenix VA Health Care System to ensure the continuity of mental health care, improve delays in assignments to a dedicated provider, and expand access to psychotherapy services.
- We recommended the VA Secretary require the Phoenix VA Health Care System to reevaluate and make the appropriate changes to its method of providing veterans primary care to ensure they provide veterans timely and quality access to care.
- We recommended the VA Secretary direct the Veterans Health Administration to establish a process that requires facility directors to notify, through their chain of command, the Under Secretary of Health when their facility cannot meet access or quality of care standards.