Last month, the agency watchdog VA OIG reported that delays in health care were not the cause of death for the majority of claimed veteran deaths from whistleblowers. VA OIG head Richard Griffin claimed investigators were “unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely quality care caused the deaths” of veterans killed in the fraudulent scheme.
Notice the focus here. VA OIG claimed the wait time did not “cause the deaths” conclusively. Could any wait time actually cause a death, conclusively?
Well of course it did not since most people die from an illness or injury – not merely waiting for care. You see, the wait may have helped the person die sooner, but it did not “cause the deaths”; the condition caused the deaths.
Further, what kind of standard can “conclusively” prove anything? A video recording? Mere testimony from witnesses?
This may seem trivial to some, but the real impact of VA wordsmithery here was how the claim was portrayed in the media.
Media outlets then ran with the sound byte claiming veterans and whistleblowers exaggerated the severity of the criminal scheme. This is a manipulation tactic I have seen VA use time and again where the official provides a half-truth that the media dimwittedly run with only later to realize that the VA officials lied to us.
Now critics are coming out against the VA OIG report. Critics claim the standard used by the supposed agency watchdog was selected to help VA cover up the scandal. And, of course, to win some good sound bytes with the press.
VA critics generally point out what I stated above. When people are sick, they generally die from the illness, not from waiting any amount of time to see a doctor. When you get shot, you die from the bullet wound. Waiting for a long ambulance ride or an extended emergency room wait will usually not be the cause of death.
One such critic is Dr. Gregory Schmuck, the chief medical examiner in Polk County, Iowa. He stated, “Delay of care may not have been the proximate cause of death, but the real question is: Did delay of treatment cause the patient to die earlier than necessary?”
Another critic, Dr. Gregory Davis, chief medical examiner in Jefferson County, AL, was flabbergasted by the manipulative methodology choice, “I can’t imagine a circumstance where someone would word it that way.”
Reread that paragraph. Dr. Davis said he could not imagine any circumstance where Richard Griffin’s criteria would make sense of a normal investigation into deaths from health care delays. Can you think of any?
Most people would agree.
This begs the question: If you really wanted to root out the evil bastards that harmed so many veterans, would you really use voodoo methodology that avoids the real question? Is the better question as follows: Did the delay contribute to the death?
Sadly, VA OIG has yet again helped the Department of Veterans Affairs get its sound byte out there before anyone could stop it and the American public will go back to sleep.
On the other hand, maybe there is something we can do to fight back. While such tactics and voodoo methodology may work in certain situations, VA is required to abide by ethics rules when conducting all manners and forms of business. So do we file an ethics complaint against Richard Griffin for implemented a faulty measure not in line with modern medical practices in forensic investigations?
Maybe, but it may not be effective. The same watchdog charged with misleading the American public about the Phoenix VA veteran deaths is also the one charged with investigating ethics complaints. That’s right people. VA OIG is the boss.
But what do we do when the watchdog becomes a bad dog? You put the bad dog out to pasture.