VA destroyed records to cover up massive cancellations for wait-list fraud

posted at 10:31 am on June 18, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Judicial Watch has found documentation that shows a deliberate effort to destroy documentation relating to massive cancellations of appointments at the VA in order to falsify wait times. In a press release this morning (not yet up on its site), the watchdog group lays out the findings from documents accessed through FOIA demands that vindicate one whistleblower and expose the wider fraud effort that went far beyond scheduling. In this case, the Office of Inspector General might have some questions to answer, too:

Judicial Watch announced today that in March 2014 it obtained internal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) documents revealing that on November 25, 2009, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) was informed that top VA officials had ordered a nationwide purge of “all outstanding [MRI] imaging orders for studies older than 6 months.” Seven days later, on December 2, 2009, the OIG closed its investigation without taking further action.

The documents obtained by Judicial Watch also detail repeated efforts by VA whistleblower Oliver Mitchell, a Marine veteran and former patient services assistant, to persuade the OIG to fully investigate the mass destruction of veterans’ medical files and the cancellation of examination requests. The documents, dating back to 2009, reveal that OIG spent barely two months investigating the allegations before closing the case.

The VA documents came in response to a February 27, 2014, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by Judicial Watch seeking “records of communications between officials of the Veterans Administration Greater Los Angeles Medical Center [GLA] from August 1, 2008, to July 32, 2009, relating to the destruction of patient medial files and the cancellation of medical exam requests.” The FOIA request also sought records in the possession of the Veterans Administration’s Office of Inspector General relating to the GLA’s alleged destruction of patients’ medical files and examination requests.

The Daily Caller also picked up on this story today, and provided some audio of a November 2008 meeting of the VA’s office in Los Angeles planning the cancellation of orders to improve the wait-list times:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnvhdV2DD0g&feature=player_embedded

Audio of an internal VA meeting obtained by TheDC confirms that VA officials in Los Angeles intentionally canceled backlogged patient exam requests.

“The committee was called System Redesign and the purpose of the meeting was to figure out ways to correct the department’s efficiency. And one of the issues at the time was the backlog,” Oliver Mitchell, a Marine veteran and former patient services assistant in the VA Greater Los Angeles Medical Center, told TheDC.

“We just didn’t have the resources to conduct all of those exams. Basically we would get about 3,000 requests a month for [medical] exams, but in a 30-day period we only had the resources to do about 800. That rolls over to the next month and creates a backlog,” Mitchell said. ”It’s a numbers thing. The waiting list counts against the hospitals efficiency. The longer the veteran waits for an exam that counts against the hospital as far as productivity is concerned.”

By 2008, some patients were “waiting six to nine months for an exam” and VA “didn’t know how to address the issue,” Mitchell said.

VA Greater Los Angeles Radiology department chief Dr. Suzie El-Saden initiated an “ongoing discussion in the department” to cancel exam requests and destroy veterans’ medical files so that no record of the exam requests would exist, thus reducing the backlog, Mitchell said.

The cover-up extended well into 2009, Judicial Watch argues, and has some documentation to support the claim:

Another document obtained by Judicial Watch in response to its February VA FOIA request included verbatim disclosures and accusations made by Mitchell, then a Patient Services Assistant in the VA’s Radiology Section. The Mitchell memos, repeatedly urging the OIG to act, had not been previously released to the public:

  • May 12, 2009: “From June 2008 to September 2008 the current interim chief stated, ‘Our clinic had the worst performance numbers compared to other VA’s nationwide’… she also stated ‘management stated no MRI orders should be cancelled and/or deleted’ … Shortly thereafter, I noticed that requests for MRIs were being cancelled dating from the year 2000 to November 2008. I approached the current interim chief about this matter in which she responded ‘management was all over her and she had to do something.’”
  • March 24, 2009: “Since my employment within this department I have witnessed ‘valid requests for MRI’s’ being cancelled and/or deleted from the system as a means of reducing the number of requests for MRI’s pending. This has been ongoing since my employment here. It is my opinion that the harassment, death threats and threats of termination I have received are due to my vocal opposition to this practice.”
  • March 24, 2009: “In February 2009 I received via voicemail a complaint from the daughter of a Veteran who stated her father had come to the VA for care and the doctor had submitted a request for a MRI. The daughter expressed great sadness and anger in our process stating her father had suffered from a massive stroke while waiting for his MRI appointment. I informed Dr. [REDACTED] of the voicemail and her response was to give her the request and not speak of the matter, she stated, ‘I already have enough tort claims as it is.’ Shortly after this, I noticed that more request were being deleted from the system.”
  • May 12, 2009: “It is my opinion that this department has not been able to meet its mandated obligations with regards to performance. The administrative process is flawed and has resulted in deaths, continued pain and suffering and an overall decline in Veterans’ health due to the lengthy wait for an MRI.”

“This shows that the Obama administration long knew of the deadly abuse being suffered by our nation’s veterans at the hands of the VA and did nothing about it,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Can you imagine waiting months to have a MRI only to have it cancelled by a government bureaucrat?  The American public should thank Oliver Mitchell for coming forward and blowing this whistle on this deadly corruption.”

If the OIG knew about this and closed the investigation in December 2009, that raises all sorts of questions as to why. Did they not have enough evidence to expose this? If that was the case, then they should have continued the investigation for more than one week. Declaring a finding of insufficient evidence should require a little more effort than a few days between Thanksgiving and the Christmas shopping season. As we now know, the problem was both widespread and deadly.

The entire VA needs a “system redesign,” one that will free veterans to find their own care rather than be held captive in a corrupt system. The OIG might need a “system redesign” as well.


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They adopted the IRS policy then.

ConstantineXI on June 18, 2014 at 10:33 AM

Sooooo who is going to jail?

/s

Defenestratus on June 18, 2014 at 10:34 AM

So the OIG is now part of the coverup? Wonderful.

Doughboy on June 18, 2014 at 10:34 AM

Say it with me: The Most Transparent Administration, Evah!

blammm on June 18, 2014 at 10:36 AM

Let me guess. Their hard drive unexpectedly crashed.

Drained Brain on June 18, 2014 at 10:36 AM

November 25, 2009

If only there had been a preznit at the time who could change things, bring hope back, drain the swamp, provide transparency. But no, we were stuck with Dubya.

Bishop on June 18, 2014 at 10:36 AM

Can Obama run out of pardons?

Rix on June 18, 2014 at 10:36 AM

Maybe the VA should of had the list on a hard drive……

No wait…….

Electrongod on June 18, 2014 at 10:37 AM

Lib Response: The real problem here is that the VA clearly doesn’t have a sufficient budget to bury the tracks left behind by their burying of their tracks.

blammm on June 18, 2014 at 10:37 AM

Sounds like somebody was playing Wannsee Conference.

formwiz on June 18, 2014 at 10:37 AM

So did the IRS consult the VA or was it the VA consulting the IRS. The feral bureaucracy is out of control.

rbj on June 18, 2014 at 10:38 AM

I’m beginning to wonder where the breaking point on all of this is.

trigon on June 18, 2014 at 10:38 AM

Just close the Va. Do it for the vets. They deserve better than what the Obama administration is willing to do for them. Don’t ever forget that the people who used to enjoy cursing and spitting on our returning war veterans and acting hateful towards them a few decades ago are the same people who are killing them off by attrition of care today. This is no accident.

HotAirian on June 18, 2014 at 10:38 AM

We need an Advisory Review Board (ARB) headed by Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen – (“two of the most respected…..”) – to get to the bottom of this.

/

aquaviva on June 18, 2014 at 10:40 AM

“Prolonged War on Vets”

Sven on June 18, 2014 at 10:40 AM

Can Obama run out of pardons?

Rix on June 18, 2014 at 10:36 AM

It would be kind of funny if the file containing all the names of administration officials to be pardoned were to crash. But, there’s no chance of that happening, is there?

trigon on June 18, 2014 at 10:41 AM

So … can we please IMPEACH obama now?

Pork-Chop on June 18, 2014 at 10:42 AM

I’m beginning to wonder where the breaking point on all of this is.

trigon on June 18, 2014 at 10:38 AM

Establishing the Dept of Education. That was the cause of all future problems. Selling the minds of the next generation to the Devil in exchange for political favors didn’t quite pay.

Rix on June 18, 2014 at 10:42 AM

Hard-drive crash.

Good Lt on June 18, 2014 at 10:44 AM

It would be kind of funny if the file containing all the names of administration officials to be pardoned were to crash. But, there’s no chance of that happening, is there?

trigon on June 18, 2014 at 10:41 AM

Obama will just draft a new one. Ain’t it good that between golfing and fundraising, he’s got so much free time on his hand.

Rix on June 18, 2014 at 10:44 AM

I’m sensing a fact pattern.

Flange on June 18, 2014 at 10:44 AM

A blind man could find this evidence.

I’m sure someone will go to jail for this./

Patriot Vet on June 18, 2014 at 10:47 AM

Nice.

jbspry on June 18, 2014 at 10:50 AM

SO WHAT!

The White House has declared that federal record retention rules, perjury by federal employees, and negligence causing death by federal employees are not proper concerns of the American public, the Courts, or Congress. Therefore, no one outside the White House has any standing to bring legal action against the OBAMA GOVERNMENT.

SO IT IS WRITTEN, SO IT SHALL BE, by order of Emperor Barack.

pilsener on June 18, 2014 at 10:52 AM

I am starting to smell a massive “reassignment” of middle level bureaucrats to Healthcare.gov…

jbspry on June 18, 2014 at 10:53 AM

IRS following suit?

cmsinaz on June 18, 2014 at 10:54 AM

Good lord . . . Obama and his entire slimy administration are as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.

rplat on June 18, 2014 at 10:54 AM

When will US citizens ever wake up???…

PatriotRider on June 18, 2014 at 10:55 AM

Does anybody care anymore???…

…and I say this seriously…

PatriotRider on June 18, 2014 at 10:56 AM

This is very serious. A patient is told he has been referred for an MRI, then waits and waits. Finally, he or family calls about it and is told they must be wrong as he was never referred for an MRI. Then is caught in the bureaucratic whirlpool. I thank God I do not have to go to a big city VA very often, especially not Los Angeles.

rlwo2008 on June 18, 2014 at 10:58 AM

Perhaps the corruption extends into the IG office?
Erasure of medical and appointment records equals pay bonuses.
Is the IG taking a kickback from VA branches to look the other way?

I admit it seems far-fetched, but I really cannot come up with a logical alternative.
Someone enlighten me please.

B4B on June 18, 2014 at 10:59 AM

old and tired: “VA destroyed records”
new and true “VA hit by unfortunate string of computer crashes”

corona79 on June 18, 2014 at 10:59 AM

Not too many people have come out and said it, but Shinseki started this bonus program when he came on board. Must have been some kind of pay back for votes or something.

Kissmygrits on June 18, 2014 at 11:00 AM

The VA fudges their wait list…
 
triple on May 23, 2014 at 8:55 PM

 
They only fudged it a little, right triple?

rogerb on June 18, 2014 at 11:03 AM

The OIG should have changed the direction of its investigation to evidence tampering, illegal destruction of government records and obstruction of justice. And it should have referred the matter to Main Justice (not that it would have done anything).

Wholesale destruction of records at VA, wholesale destruction of records at IRS. How many other cabinet level departments and other agencies are doing this? Justice, State, CIA, DHS on Fast & Furious, perhaps? DHS on deportation statistics? State on Benghazi?

The Executive Branch has become unutterably corrupt. And the civil service protections are at the very heart of it. It makes one long for the transparency of the spoils system. We need to clean house. My proposal: convert every federal employee from indefinite employment to a five-year contract, with a “for cause” termination provision, and no administrative or judicial appeals.

Esaus Message on June 18, 2014 at 11:04 AM

I’m reminded of that scene in Patton where the Germans were destroying all records of what they had been doing.

We should not impeach Obama, we should aggressively prosecute everyone around him. With all his aides going to jail, we’ll make our point without coming off as Klansmen in a lynch mob.

Occams Stubble on June 18, 2014 at 11:06 AM

The known traitor Lt. John F. Kerry is not nor will ever be on this deadly wait list.
The evil input land grows unchecked.
A VA health care fraud.
The CO2 fraud.
The IRS fraud//missing e-mails.
The Fast & Furious fraud.
The Democrat Party vote fraud.
The fraud of obama at the core of it all.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on June 18, 2014 at 11:07 AM

It’s a shame that we don’t have an honest AG. Obama’s minions can lie and destroy records with impunity. Obama can break any law that he doesn’t like with impunity. Invaders can cross our borders with impunity and benefits. This is the price of electing corrupt liberals.

cajunpatriot on June 18, 2014 at 11:09 AM

VA destroyed records to cover up massive cancellations for wait-list fraud

More Destroyed records. I’m beginning to sense a trend with this Administration.

WisRich on June 18, 2014 at 11:13 AM

Ladies and gentlemen, the federal government is at war with its citizens.

jukin3 on June 18, 2014 at 11:21 AM

Welcome home from the limb that we sent you out on and then cut off from underneath you; Here’s your wait-list and some food stamps.

V7_Sport on June 18, 2014 at 11:22 AM

Obama Care trial run if they can kill off veterans, civilians will be a cinch.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on June 18, 2014 at 11:25 AM

The best part is this is coming to all of us (except federal employees and politicians) with Obama-democrat Care.

Palin proved right again about those death panels.

jukin3 on June 18, 2014 at 11:25 AM

Can Obama run out of pardons?

Rix on June 18, 2014 at 10:36 AM

If you never indict anyone you don’t need pardons.

MaiDee on June 18, 2014 at 11:27 AM

We should not impeach Obama, we should aggressively prosecute everyone around him
Occams Stubble on June 18, 2014 at 11:06 AM

Who is going to prosecute? The Justice Department will claim that State or local prosecutors do not have jurisdiction, and Holder’s Justice Dept will open an investigation that will not be concluded by the end of 2016.

No prosecutions, probably no firings, and little if any punitive actions against the dedicated unionized employees who populate the VA. Of course, a LARGE increase in budget will be necessary to correct the problems at the VA.

pilsener on June 18, 2014 at 11:29 AM

Does anybody care anymore???…

…and I say this seriously…

PatriotRider on June 18, 2014 at 10:56 AM

I spend most of my days now in a high state of “clinched”. Yes, I care, there isn’t a heck of a lot that can be done with reid controlling the senate and the affirmative acton incompetent in the white house.
Beyond that, the VA has been broken since it’s start, now it’s a government program run by unions for the enrichment of it’s employees, not top provide any kind of service to anyone. The whole thing needs to be ended (with the exception of some of the specialized care that they provide, like the brain trauma work they do.) and anyone who served needs to be offered Blue Cross at group rates subsidized by the taxpayer up to 100% depending on injury or need. That would be a promise kept.

V7_Sport on June 18, 2014 at 11:32 AM

We should not impeach Obama, we should aggressively prosecute everyone around him
Occams Stubble on June 18, 2014 at 11:06 AM

And make anyones life who voted for him a waking nightmare.

V7_Sport on June 18, 2014 at 11:33 AM

One common denominator for the rampant destruction of official records is the Obama administration.

iamsaved on June 18, 2014 at 11:38 AM

Why are people surprised at the lack of accountability in the OIG probe?

It is inefficient government bureaucracy investigating inefficient government bureaucracy. It is a fig leaf that attempts to give the perception that we hold our executive agencies accountable.

OIGs are woefully inadequate. Corruption and incompetence in our government will only truly be addressed by the actions of citizens, whistleblowers, and the media. It has always been this way and always will.

airupthere on June 18, 2014 at 12:00 PM

I hope ABC News carries this story tonight so Obama finds out. I’m sure he will be gosh-darned angry about all this. It all reminds me of the Stalin era when citizens were sent to the Gulag (or worse). They always blamed the guy who had his boot on their neck, and lamented that this wouldn’t be happening “if Stalin only knew!!”

2ndMAW68 on June 18, 2014 at 12:02 PM

Gee, what a shock.

The criminal enterprise masquerading as the executive branch has been engaging in criminal activities.

Who could have guessed?

AZCoyote on June 18, 2014 at 12:02 PM

“System re-design”? HOW ABOUT FIRING PEOPLE!

GarandFan on June 18, 2014 at 12:04 PM

Is there any possibility that the next president of the US can have his attorney general start investigations into all these scandals or will the statute of limitations stop him?

Oldnuke on June 18, 2014 at 12:07 PM

In the interests of accuracy, things that happened in 2008 happened on Bush’s watch. The VA has been self-serving for a very long time and while Obama can and should be criticized for not doing anything about it, so should Bush 2, Clinton, Bush 1 and even the sainted Reagan.

Heck, college started in the Fall of 1979 and my VA benefits didn’t because they’d requested the wrong documents, then sat on their butts instead of getting hold of me. Veterans learn that the difference between VA benefits and no benefits at all is that with no benefits, the aggravation is less.

PersonFromPorlock on June 18, 2014 at 12:07 PM

As I post Google is scrolling goverment tax payer funded adds “Get enrolled in VA Health Care”. Sick!!!

APACHEWHOKNOWS on June 18, 2014 at 12:09 PM

They went to the lois lerner seminars on record keeping….

crosshugger on June 18, 2014 at 12:11 PM

In a righteous administration, these VA people would be blind folded and stood up against a stone wall.

kurtzz3 on June 18, 2014 at 12:16 PM

Judicial Watch – continuing to do the work that the US House and Republicans can’t seem to be bothered to do.

Remember, if you like them, send them a few bucks, wouldya? It is the best entertainment spending on the planet and gets results that are just astounding.

ajacksonian on June 18, 2014 at 12:29 PM

Of some note upon thinking this through.

Might be best to get off the VA list total as it seems anyone who served is on the “get them” list of these commie thug hate America Democrats.

like that, the farside….

APACHEWHOKNOWS on June 18, 2014 at 12:46 PM

Sooooo who is going to jail?

/s

Defenestratus on June 18, 2014 at 10:34 AM

They haven’t even fired anyone. BUT! They have harassed the whistleblowers.

dogsoldier on June 18, 2014 at 12:48 PM

Sure, issues at the VA go back several administrations, but Obama campaigned in 2007-08 on fixing the VA and things have become demonstrably WORSE in the last 5 1/2 years. In fact, the “fix” (the bonuses for performance) has added a new level of corruption to the problem.

Talk about having a “reverse Midas touch,” that’s our president…

HornHiAceDeuce on June 18, 2014 at 2:37 PM

Well….that’s definitely a blow. We very badly needed for OIG to stay above the widespread corruption on the VA issue. Glad we have orgs like Judicial Watch around!!!

I went on Monday to pick up my volunteer packet for a VA facility not far from my home. Little bit nervous about it, with all this nonsense going on, but they definitely need the help.

lineholder on June 18, 2014 at 3:09 PM

Yup. This is what happens in a single payer system. This is how it will be for all of us once Obamacare crashes everything and morphs into a single payer system.

Theophile on June 18, 2014 at 4:41 PM

This is the MO for this Administration. Shred All Evidence!!!

Couple this with the IRS and what was an echoing theme for the Democrats in 2006 will come back to haunt them. They’re all corrupt liars who’ve enriched themselves on the public’s dollar.

djaymick on June 18, 2014 at 5:21 PM

records of communications between officials of the Veterans Administration Greater Los Angeles Medical Center [GLA] from August 1, 2008, to July 32, 2009,

Ehhhh…are we just making up the dates, then? Because I’m pretty sure that July doesn’t have a 32nd day. Of course, I could be singing the nursery rhyme incorrectly.

I’ve done that before :\

stixXxnstones on June 18, 2014 at 6:59 PM