Report: Obama transition team was warned about unreliable wait times at VA in 2008

Great news for the White House, no? Sure, it shows they knowingly left sick and injured vets to languish in a Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare. In a sane world, that would be the last straw in sending Shinseki packing. But it also lets O share blame with the Bush administration, one of his favorite methods of damage control. There are three steps in Hopenchange crisis management: (1) they profess to be “mad as hell”; (2) they accept a resignation/announce the retirement/place on “administrative leave” some relatively low-ranking officials; (3) as time wears on and media interest fades, they pronounce the whole thing a phony scandal. Their problem with the VA mess is that, no matter how long it drags out, they don’t dare pronounce this one “phony”; they can laugh at “#Benghazi” but they won’t laugh at wounded troops. So they need a Plan B for defusing the crisis, which, in this case, will be to claim that it’s another problem they’ve inherited from Bush. For, er, five and a half years.

Veterans Affairs officials warned the Obama-Biden transition team in the weeks after the 2008 presidential election that the department shouldn’t trust the wait times that its facilities were reporting.

“This is not only a data integrity issue in which [Veterans Health Administration] reports unreliable performance data; it affects quality of care by delaying — and potentially denying — deserving veterans timely care,” the officials wrote…

In particular, the 2008 transition report referred to a VA inspector general recommendation to test the accuracy of reported waiting times…

“Audits of outpatient scheduling and patient waiting times completed since 2005 have identified noncompliance with the policies and procedures for scheduling, inaccurate reporting of patient waiting times and errors in [electronic waiting lists],” the briefing papers state…

The briefing materials do not reveal any concerns about outright fraud in manipulating waiting times, but they make repeated references in summarizing past audits and reviews about data accuracy.

The briefing report also noted that not a single one of the nine recommendations made by the VA inspector general between 2005 and 2007 to improve scheduling practices had been implemented under Bush by 2008, further evidence of what the commander of the American Legion described as a “systematic lack of accountability.” The question for congressional investigators is when, precisely, inaccurate and unreliable data at the VA bled over into out-and-out book-cooking by administrators to hide the full extent of wait times. Did that begin under Obama or did this metastasize from incompetence and under-resourced bureaucracy into full-blown corruption under Bush as well, replete with whistleblowers being suspended for objecting — and then reinstated on condition that they stop blowing the whistle?

Here’s Drew Griffin of CNN reminding the public that not only has the problem of long waits for veterans been common knowledge on the Hill for a good 10 years, Senator Barack Obama promised the VFW in 2007 that he was going to work hard to reduce them. Click the image to watch.


Update: Oof.

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