Yesterday, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki declared himself “mad as hell” over the allegations of wait-list fraud in Phoenix, where 40 veterans passed away before accessing medical assistance while the office falsified records. Shinseki also pronounced himself saddened by the consequences of the VA’s failures, and pledged to get to the bottom of them — and allegations at five other offices that arose from other whistleblowers:
At nearly the same time as Shinseki testified yesterday, the Ocala News (Florida) reported that a seventh VA office in Gainesville had discovered a secret wait list that had 200 veterans waiting for medical care:
Three mental health administrators at the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center in Gainesville have been placed on administrative leave after U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs officials found a “secret” waiting list of more than 200 patients, a local union president said Thursday. …
News recently surfaced of alleged secret waiting lists and falsified records at VA hospitals around the country, including reports of allegations that some veterans on such a list at the Veterans Affairs Health Care system in Phoenix had died while waiting for appointments. Reports have said the secret waiting lists were meant to hide delays and could have been used so management executives could get bonuses related to shorter wait times.
Muriel Newman, union president for the local chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees, told The Sun that the VA administration had placed chief psychiatrist Dr. Rajiv Tandon, administrative officer Karen Chin and Peter Durand, the chief of the mental health service call line, on administrative leave after the discovery of the list at the Gainesville VA hospital.
Wisnieski confirmed those three employees have been placed on paid administrative leave while a review is conducted into the list and the circumstances surrounding it.
The union claims that this wasn’t a “waiting list,” but a list of veterans who needed callbacks for appointments. That sounds like a distinction without a difference. Appointment callbacks in most medical offices are used to confirm appointment dates. If these veterans were being listed outside the computerized appointment system, that sounds very much like an attempt to avoid entering them into the system for longer than 14 days before the first available appointment. What other purpose would a paper list containing 219 patients serve, anyway?
Marco Rubio sent out a statement this morning demanding everything the VA currently has on its wait-list scandal:
“I am troubled by new reports suggesting secret waiting lists were being kept at the Gainesville VA hospital, potentially to the detriment of our veterans’ health. This would be outrageous in its own right, but it’s even more so because of the pervasive problems emerging about the VA each day in all corners of the country.
“Earlier this week, I asked VA Secretary Shinseki for all information regarding secret VA waiting lists in Florida and Biloxi, MS. I don’t want to wait until everything is ready. I want to see what is available now, starting with Gainesville.
“It also highlights the need to bring real accountability to the VA. From problems in Phoenix to Miami and now potentially Gainesville too, we’ve seen plenty of finger-pointing and excuses, but no one actually being fired for incompetence and negligence in the performance of their duties. As an easy first step, Congress should approve the VA reform bill Congressman Jeff Miller and I have introduced.”
Let’s not forget that the VA first found out about wait-list fraud more than a year ago, and again last fall. Shinseki’s very late to the party to declare himself “mad as hell” about it, and especially to pledge to take responsibility for reform. Jim Geraghty calls this a familiar refrain in this administration:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s declaration that she takes responsibility for the failure to secure our facilities and personnel in Libya — with no word on any actual consequence of this failure — is the most recent example. But the approach began from the very start of this administration. …
* After ObamaCare passed, the president admitted he hadn’t kept his promises on how the legislation would be handled. He told congressional Republicans that most of the debate had been aired on TV — except for some of the talks close to the Senate vote. “That was a messy process,” Obama said. “I take responsibility.” But it was too late to change anything about the law at that point, obviously.
* Obama said he “took responsibility” for the 2010 midterm results… but there was little or no sign that he changed his governing approach, philosophy or policies in response to the lopsided results in favor of the Republicans that year.
* Finally, in summer 2011, the president admitted that he’d misjudged the severity of the economic difficulties facing the country when he came into office: “Even I did not realize the magnitude, because most economists didn’t realize the magnitude of the recession until fairly far into it,” Obama said. “I think people may not have been prepared for how long this was going to take, and why we were going to have to make some very difficult decisions and choices. I take responsibility for that.” But the policies and approach we’ve seen since that declaration of responsibility are the same as what we saw before it; nothing changed.
The new way to avoid taking responsibility is to tell the world you’re “taking responsibility.”
How many people lost their jobs over Benghazi?