WT – Obama Administration knew about the brewing wait list scandal at VA health care facilities since the 2008 transition team started its work. But there is more than enough blame to go around. Importantly, when it comes to blame, the scandal dates back to 2005 according to a document created by the Bush Administration for the transition team. The document states the falsifying of wait times was detected by VA OIG in 2005.
[check out the Transition Team FOIA from Washington Times for yourself]
No matter how you spin it, the current scheduling crisis is undeniable and neither political party has fixed it despite more than enough time to do so. To compare apples to apples, Bush had 3.5 years to sort it out. Obama had 5.5 years to sort it out. No party has sorted it out after 9 years, which means there is something major and systemic rotting away inside the belly of the beast. Perhaps it is because VA is moving to a corporate model.
This transition team document probably explains why Obama has not declared “no faith” in Shinseki. Shinseki is the FOURTH VA Secretary to deal with the issue. It is possible that Shinseki is not expected to fix it, at all.
This means the problems with health care scheduling go as far back as the Bush Administration at the beginning of his second term. At that time, Veterans Affairs was lead by Jack Nicholson and stories from the Kerry smear campaign “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” had just set sail. It also means that VA was well aware of the problems for a very long time and failed to take immediate effective action for many years.
Yesterday, Washington Times reported on records it received from the agency through a FOIA request. According to the records, five years has passed since the Obama Administration was first warned by VA officials that the numbers coming out of health care division were unreliable.
[Veterans Health Administration] has made only limited progress in addressing the longstanding and underlying causes of problems with outpatient scheduling, accuracy of reported waiting times, and completeness of electronic waiting lists (EWLs).
The report indicates the Bush Administration was working to resolve the matter, but that those efforts were limited to merely assessing the scope of the problem and then passing the buck after three years of inaction. The report states no meaningful action had been taken to resolve the bad policies and information inaccuracies since 2005.
Audits of outpatient scheduling and patient waiting times completed since 2005 have identified noncompliance with policies and procedures for scheduling, inaccurate reporting of patient waiting times, and errors in EWLs. Although VHA has recognized the need to improve scheduling practices and the accuracy of waiting times data, no meaningful action has been taken to achieve this goal to date. Nine recommendations in prior OIG audit reports issued in 2005 and 2007 that were agreed to by VHA remain unimplemented, as confirmed by our most recent follow-up work in this area in 2008.
Recent reports across the country indicate this current VA administration, lead by Secretary Shinseki, has failed to fully address the problems since he took control of VA in 2010.
These records certainly undermine the sincerity of the responses from both President Obama and Secretary Shinseki. How could Shinseki really be “mad as hell” about something he was aware of a long time ago? How can President Obama also be outraged?
This is nothing more than political theater at its finest. It also shows that despite who is in charge, Democrats or Republicans, the problems in VA are long lasting and likely here to stay. No matter how serious, our political process has failed to address quality of care concerns for its veterans. This means it is time to sue and time to vote for competent leaders.
This is not only a data integrity issue in which VA reports unreliable performance data; it affects quality of care by delaying-and potentially denying-deserving veterans timely care.
UPDATE 1:30 PM 5/20/14
This rabbit trail is getting deeper and deeper by the day. Check out this VA wait list memo that big media has overlooked from VA Deputy Under Secretary of Health in 2002. It suggests the wait list issue is much older than the past two presidential administrations.
It is on page 1 of VA’s Electronic Wait List Manual: https://www.disabledveterans.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/ewl_um.pdf.
Thanks VeteransWarriors for bringing this to my attention.