For the past few months, the VA center here in Minneapolis has insisted that the off-system wait lists that put veterans’ lives at risk elsewhere in the country did not exist here. Top men had looked into it, and nothing untoward had happened here, they assured Minnesota veterans. Secret wait lists and delayed or denied care? No, no no no no. No.

Well … yes (via Gary Gross):

Employees at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center were pressured to falsify patient appointment dates and medical records in order to hide serious delays, potentially comprising the health of veterans, according to former employees, internal emails and a complaint filed to the VA’s office of the Inspector General.

In some cases, the employees say they were instructed to falsify medical records by writing that patients had declined follow-up treatments when, in reality, they say the veterans had never been contacted.

Patient’s lives may be at risk, they fear, because they say some cases involved suspected colon cancer.

Note that in this case, the issue goes beyond delayed care to flat-out refusal to provide care. Patients who needed follow-ups never even knew of their situation, the whistleblowers told the Office of Inspector General at the VA. Their managers ordered them to falsify the patient records to indicate that they’d been informed of a positive result from a colonoscopy but refused further treatment, rather than have them come in to address what might be nascent colon cancer. If that’s true, veterans around the state may have missed the chance to successfully treat what could easily be a fatal illness. How many deaths will that cause in the coming years?

By the way, the whistleblowers don’t work at the VA any longer. After attempting to get VA executives to do something about this, they claim, the Minneapolis VA fired them:

In an exclusive interview, the women told KARE 11 investigative reporter A.J. Lagoe they were abruptly fired after trying to alert top VA administrators about the problems.

“I have family members that are veterans. They should know actually what’s going on at the VA,” Rossbach told KARE 11 reporter Lagoe.

Shouldn’t we all?

Clearly, we have not uncovered all of the issues at the VA. This also shows why reform has to address the fundamental problem at the VA — the single-payer system. Only a single-payer system would find ways not to provide service to its customers. It’s s bureaucracy that sees itself as its highest priority and mission, and not the veterans who need medical care. Throwing a little extra money and adding some long-overdue termination flexibility at the executive level isn’t going to end the perverse incentives to deny care and hide the evidence that the single-payer system produces.

Last week, I interviewed Pete Hegseth of Concerned Veterans for America on this topic, and Pete agrees that restructuring veteran care to introduce real choice and competition is the only real long-term reform that will work: