Open thread: Shinseki to testify on wait-list fraud in Senate hearing

posted at 9:21 am on May 15, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Today, VA Secretary Eric Shisneki will answer questions arising from seven or more VA facilities about wait-list fraud and the lack of accountability within the organization he’s run since January 2009. When the hearing got scheduled by Senate Veterans Affairs Committee chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT) last week, the focus was on the Phoenix office, where 40 veterans died while waiting for medical assistance. A whistleblower alleged that the facility had faked the wait-list records and then destroyed evidence afterward, creating outrage on Capitol Hill. After the hearing was demanded, six more facilities have been alleged to have conducted similar wait-list fraud.

Shinseki will find himself on the hot seat at 10 am today:

As reports of serious misconduct come in from VA hospitals across the country, lawmakers are prepared to give Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki the grilling of a lifetime on Thursday when he appears before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Shinseki, a retired four-star Army general who has led the VA since 2009, is prepared to tell the committee about the VA’s response so far to reports that at least 40 veterans died while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA Health Care system. The Phoenix facility reportedly worked to cover up patients’ long wait times by creating a secret waiting list and later destroying the evidence.

“If these allegations are true, they are completely unacceptable–to Veterans, to me, and to our dedicated VHA employees,” Shinseki’s prepared opening statement says. If they are substantiated by the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG), the agency’s independent watchdog, Shinseki says that “responsible and timely action will be taken.”

Shinseki wants to deliver a message of reform, but that may take a lot of convincing. He’s been in charge for more than five years, and the wait-list metric of 14 days was established three years ago. If Shinseki had just taken over the VA after this metric was established, or if it was a long-standing metric and the fraud a relic of his predecessor’s management, then the committee might have given him more room for this kind of promise. However, the problem clearly started and continued on Shinseki’s watch, and the number of offices that allegedly conducted this kind of fraud points to at least incompetence at managing metrics, if not coordination at higher levels than just the field offices.

Can Shinseki count on Democrats to shield him from demands for accountability? Perhaps, but Shinseki shouldn’t count on it. Sanders initially defended Shinseki before getting pressured into holding the hearing, and he may still be on board. But with dozens of veterans having died while VA offices lied about their customer service, it’s going to be difficult for anyone not to demand a few heads out of this scandal. We’ll see whether Shinseki gets asked tough questions, and by whom.

CNN’s John King says Democrats are starting to get worried, and they’re not getting any comfort from Shinseki’s prepared remarks:

Jake Tapper wants to hear from veterans about their experiences in the VA:

Maybe he could use a whistleblower or two from other VA offices, too.


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So the Democratics found Bernie Sanders a committee chairmanship on a committee that they thought was relatively insignificant and that he couldn’t possibly f up?

Kind of like Shinseki’s assignment.

slickwillie2001 on May 15, 2014 at 11:53 AM

Um…… You’re calling the chairmanship of the Veterans Affairs Committee “relatively insignificant?” That isn’t true for a lot of reasons including the amount of money the VA gets and, of course, the fact that there isn’t one critter in Congress without veterans as a constituency and staff people devoted to veterans’ affairs.

Happy Nomad on May 15, 2014 at 12:00 PM

SC.Charlie on May 15, 2014 at 11:22 AM

The VA and Indian Health Services (IHS) have served as a testing ground for socialized medicine policies for years in the US. They’re the guinea pigs where policy is testing before trying to bring it into the private sector.

Some of those policies are good. Others are not and the impact they have on the lives of patients is as destructive as it gets.

I’m just really glad we still have people with enough of conscience in this country that they’ll speak up NOW, even though, in the past,they may have been willing to just adhere to the policies and procedures put upon them by those in authority over them.

My personal soapbox message of the day: We really need to find a way to build strong patient advocacy organizations now.

lineholder on May 15, 2014 at 12:01 PM

Why should politicians of any stripe be worried, this is about a government agency treating veterans like dirt, don’t the demorats WANT to find out the pertinent details so things can be changed for the better?

Any of you lefties want to chime-in?

Bishop on May 15, 2014 at 9:26 AM

From another thread, but seems apt:

Just give it a rest with the constant grievance politics.

libfreeordie on May 15, 2014 at 8:32 AM

de rigueur on May 15, 2014 at 12:03 PM

OT- It’s stories like this that give the South a bad name.

A South Carolina man died Wednesday morning after police say he asked one of his friends to fire a gun into a bulletproof vest he was wearing, Fox Carolina reported. The bullet reportedly missed the Kevlar vest and hit Blake Wardell, 26, in the chest.

Happy Nomad on May 15, 2014 at 12:07 PM

Norway had Eric (Erik) the Red-famed explorer called ‘red’ because of his fiery temperament.
America has Eric the Blue–undistinguished general end empty suit VA Secretary. Called ‘blue’ because he blue his way to the top through Affirmative Action.

MaiDee on May 15, 2014 at 12:10 PM

OT- It’s stories like this that give the South a bad name.

A South Carolina man died Wednesday morning after police say he asked one of his friends to fire a gun into a bulletproof vest he was wearing, Fox Carolina reported. The bullet reportedly missed the Kevlar vest and hit Blake Wardell, 26, in the chest.

Happy Nomad on May 15, 2014 at 12:07 PM

It just means some of us are more evolved than others.

crankyoldlady on May 15, 2014 at 12:13 PM

BTW- If some liberal troll tells you the VA killing veterans isn’t a story, point out that CNN has pre-empted their continuous coverage of Sterling and the NBA to air this hearing.

Happy Nomad on May 15, 2014 at 12:19 PM

It just means some of us are more evolved than others.

crankyoldlady on May 15, 2014 at 12:13 PM

True but I gotta think that alcohol was involved too.

Happy Nomad on May 15, 2014 at 12:19 PM

Man, when Obama reads about this in the paper tomorrow, he’s gonna be pizzed…

HornHiAceDeuce on May 15, 2014 at 12:24 PM

True but I gotta think that alcohol was involved too.

Happy Nomad on May 15, 2014 at 12:19 PM

Definitely sounds like a ‘hold my beer; watch this’ moment.

Midas on May 15, 2014 at 12:24 PM

So Shineski thought he could fix the waiting time by decree? So the bureaucrat underlings made his wish come true. And people died.

Yes. This is government run health care.

TerryW on May 15, 2014 at 12:25 PM

If anyone thinks that single payer healthcare for all would work any better than the clusterfarked care that the VA is providing for the vets, I’ve got a bridge over the East River that I’ll sell you.

Under singlepayer – wait lists will be commonplace – as would be rationing care and a revolving door of bureaucratic excuses by incompetent government bureaucrats who believe they are above being questioned by the American people or Congress.

Athos on May 15, 2014 at 12:33 PM

OT- It’s stories like this that give the South a bad name.

A South Carolina man died Wednesday morning after police say he asked one of his friends to fire a gun into a bulletproof vest he was wearing, Fox Carolina reported. The bullet reportedly missed the Kevlar vest and hit Blake Wardell, 26, in the chest.

Happy Nomad on May 15, 2014 at 12:07 PM

Definitely sounds like a ‘hold my beer; watch this’ moment.

Midas on May 15, 2014 at 12:24 PM

I read it was his girl friend that did the shooting. He was probably still holding his beer.

TerryW on May 15, 2014 at 12:33 PM

OT- It’s stories like this that give the South a bad name.

A South Carolina man died Wednesday morning after police say he asked one of his friends to fire a gun into a bulletproof vest he was wearing, Fox Carolina reported. The bullet reportedly missed the Kevlar vest and hit Blake Wardell, 26, in the chest.

Happy Nomad on May 15, 2014 at 12:07 PM

Only for those who like to lump people into groups. What happened is not indicative of most Southerners. There are plenty of tards in the rest of the country.

ProudinNC on May 15, 2014 at 12:51 PM

Since this is an open thread, what’s the deal about Michael Sams signing a contract with Oprah for a reality show? And the now infamous cake-smashing kiss was just a staged PR event to be included in the show?

http://msn.foxsports.com/midwest/story/michael-sam-inks-docu-series-deal-with-oprah-051414?cmpid=msn%3Afoxsports%3Aansfox11

Apparently, talks about this deal between Oprah and Sams had to be in the works before he got the final word about being drafted to the Rams.

Did the Rams know about this before they drafted him? If they didn’t know, how will that impact Sams relationship with the team?

Was it part of the deal to draft him? Will they be filming in the locker rooms and on the fields?

lineholder on May 15, 2014 at 12:59 PM

Only for those who like to lump people into groups. What happened is not indicative of most Southerners. There are plenty of tards in the rest of the country.

ProudinNC on May 15, 2014 at 12:51 PM

I live in Ohio and I can attest to the truth of that.

crankyoldlady on May 15, 2014 at 1:07 PM

Only for those who like to lump people into groups. What happened is not indicative of most Southerners. There are plenty of tards in the rest of the country.

ProudinNC on May 15, 2014 at 12:51 PM

I live in Ohio and I can attest to the truth of that.

crankyoldlady on May 15, 2014 at 1:07 PM

Same thing in enlightened, progressive Oregon in the Pac Northwest. People love to laugh at dumb ol’ hick Southerners and flyover states, but there is no end here to 18-25 YO men (and women) who do really stupid, stupid things. On a related note, I’d say meth is just as much of a problem here as it is elsewhere…

Marcola on May 15, 2014 at 2:06 PM

obama hates the Military personnel, dead or alive.

He appointed a WH runner-boy to look into it, really. He’s that serious about it.

Schadenfreude on May 15, 2014 at 2:48 PM

OT- It’s stories like this that give the South a bad name.

A South Carolina man died Wednesday morning after police say he asked one of his friends to fire a gun into a bulletproof vest he was wearing, Fox Carolina reported.

Because we all know that there are no dumbasses anywhere else but in the South.
Or racists, either.

Closet Optimist on May 15, 2014 at 2:49 PM

Did the Rams know about this before they drafted him? If they didn’t know, how will that impact Sams relationship with the team?

Was it part of the deal to draft him? Will they be filming in the locker rooms and on the fields?

lineholder on May 15, 2014 at 12:59 PM

The entire league was probably involved in deciding how the drafting and media handling of Sams would go down. There most likely were discussions about which team would burn a 7th round pick on him, and then ESPN was given the green light to hype it up. I would assume everything was coordinated ahead of time, including the reality show.

HidetheDecline on May 15, 2014 at 4:48 PM

In that case the law needs to be changed. The VA appears to be just another expensive bureaucratic boondoggle, whose budget can’t be cut.

SC.Charlie on May 15, 2014 at 11:22 AM

The Vet healthcare budget would dwarf everything else. I happily pay Tricare. Having served, I receive it at a premium and discounted because of my time in. I wouldn’t tax the VA system unless I just could not afford Tricare anymore.

hawkdriver on May 15, 2014 at 7:52 PM

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