CNN reporter Drew Griffin has owned the revelations surrounding the Department of Veterans Affairs and their scandalous treatment of military veterans. After a year of investigation, he broke the story involving the creation of secret waiting lists at a Phoenix VA hospital where 40 vets died awaiting care. Griffin’s reporting led to the uncovering of several more secret waiting lists – a revelation that forced President Barack Obama to accept the resignation of his VA secretary, Gen. Eric Shinseki.
On Monday, Griffin discussed a new report from an independent government oversight agency which found that VA has been ignoring whistleblowers for years. “Too frequently, the VA has failed to use information form whistleblowers to identify and address systematic concerns that impact patient care,” read a letter from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel addressed to the president.
“In 10 different cases across the country, specific examples, where they believe a whistleblower came forward, veterans were harmed, nothing happened,” Griffin said. “[It’s] been going on for a couple years.”
As an example of how neglectful the VA’s process of providing care to vets has been, Griffin cited one example in which one veteran applied for mental health care in 2003 and did not received a psychological evaluation until 2011. “It’s crazy,” Griffin added.
“Based on everything I know, to date, I don’t think that the VA can fix itself,” the CNN reporter declared. “I don’t know how you fix this. I really don’t know, if I was going to give advice, where you would give it, other than I would blanketly throw out every senior manager in the VA.”
“There is an entire bureaucracy here that has been allowing this to happen for years, and years, and years,” Griffin concluded. “I don’t know how you get one administrator at the top who is going to somehow change the culture without throwing out all these people.”
Meanwhile, an investigation from the Tampa Bay Times suggested that a rule change implemented in 2010 allowed administrators to lengthen waiting times for vets. VA critics allege that this change was an part of an effort to make VA hospitals’ performance look better than it actually was.
But about 2010, the VA allowed its hospitals to lengthen to 120 days the time veterans must wait without an appointment before they are put on the waiting list, potentially cutting thousands of veterans across the nation from the list, according to a Tampa Bay Times review of VA records and interviews.
The time frame is now 90 days.
Some critics say the changes were a deliberate ploy by VA leaders to make this much-watched measure of hospital performance look better than it actually was.
But some VA administrators claim that the once chronic problems at the VA are being addressed.
“If there is one message I’d want your readers to get,” said Dr. Carolyn Clancy, a VA assistant undersecretary of health for quality, safety and value, “is that it is a new day” at the VA.
Not according to the Office of Special Counsel.