VAOIG head Richard Griffin continues to spin the active VA cover-up of frauds committed by VA employees at Phoenix VA leading up to the wait list scandal CNN exposed in April.
But I have a question. When will VA just own up to the fact that the wait list scandal was a fraud and say, “We are sorry for killing veterans…,”? Instead, doesn’t it just seem like VA is playing semantics to distract from the bigger crimes against veterans? Who cares if it occurred in 2008 or 2010?
In a press release yesterday, Griffin attempted to discount the newly admitted cover-up of an unreleased 2008 memorandum that highlighted wait list manipulations. Griffin promised VA would release the memorandum by end of work today, but that promise was not satisfied. At the time of this writing, the memorandum was still unpublished.
In line with VA ethics and logic, Griffin seems to believe it is better that VA condoned the fraud rather than cover-up the fraud and continues to argue that VA mentioned it was committing crimes to meet performance standards — knowingly.
How does this make sense? Rather than own up to past crimes, VA fixates on arguments about when it may or may not have admitted to its own knowledge of the crimes while failing to acknowledge its employees broke the law and killed vets while profiting. Why does this matter now? We know they killed vets for their own profit. End of story.
Regardless, VA OIG seems to want to get the last word on all issues within the press at all collateral costs, and I cannot figure how this kind of political maneuvering is appropriate. My only thought is that the White House is pressuring VA to counter all plausible allegations up until this election cycle passes.
These kinds of VA OIG responses to reporters and Congress are inappropriate and serve to do little more than undermine the agency’s credibility more than merely shutting the hell up. It looks like Griffin is behaving like the little child we all grew up with who had to always get the last word even when it killed his own argument.
Why not just admit that VA employees were engaged in known crimes and at least say, “I am sorry we did not do more but Bob will change that now. You’re welcome. Bob.” Instead, they are arguing over nonsense and acting like fools.
Here is the press release from Acting VA Inspector General:
The Phoenix VA Health Care System is again in the news due to media reporting on a September 2, 2008, VA Office of Inspector General memorandum of administrative investigation into allegations involving altered appointments and failure to use the electronic wait list. Suggestions from the media and some Members of Congress that the OIG kept secret inappropriate scheduling practices are belied by nearly a decade of reporting that is outlined in the attached chronology, Keeping Congress and VA Secretary Informed: VA Office of Inspector General’s Reporting on Patient Wait Times from 2005-2014. We encourage serious readers to consider the persistent alarms the OIG has raised on patient wait times and scheduling practices—alarms acknowledged on numerous occasions by Congress at oversight hearings.
In regard to the September 2008 memorandum, our investigation concluded that altering appointments was an accepted past practice to avoid wait times greater than 30 days, and that through a failure to properly communicate a requirement to adhere to policy, some employees continued this practice without management’s awareness. Several supervisors and schedulers reported the practice had stopped, but at different times, and both management and staff were confused as to the proper way to schedule appointments. At the time, we believed that a warning in the form of a memorandum of administrative investigation was sufficient to advise the Phoenix HCS Director of the problem so the Director could take corrective action.
Moreover, less than 4 months earlier, the OIG published a report, Audit of Alleged Manipulation of Waiting Times in Veterans Integrated Service Network 3, which includes the VA Under Secretary for Health’s assurance that the Veterans Health Administration was already addressing our concerns with national solutions, to include new scheduling policy, software modifications, and training for 41,000 schedulers. While 20/20 hindsight is a trait in common abundance, we could not predict 6 years ago the string of broken promises to fix wait times and scheduling problems.
It should be noted that the OIG’s final report, Review of Alleged Patient Deaths, Patient Wait Times, and Scheduling Practices at the Phoenix VA Health Care System, cited the 2008 memorandum in Appendix E, contrary to assertions that the memorandum was kept secret. While the vast majority of OIG oversight reports are published on the OIG website, reports of administrative investigation—which contain protected Privacy Act information—typically are provided to congressional oversight committees upon request and may be released publicly if we receive a request under FOIA. We provided a copy of the September 2, 2008, memorandum to the U.S. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on October 2, 2014, which was the first time a request was made for this memorandum. To set the record straight, we are releasing a redacted version of this memorandum on the OIG website today.