May 29, 2014

The VA scandal is systemic and for some, horrifyingly personal

The VA's problems are systemic says its own Inspector General, Delayed care is everywhere

Late-night testimony Wednesday by a top VA official before Congress amounted to a confession that the agency had lost its focus over the years, paying more attention to meeting performance standards than treating patients.
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The Inspector General appeared to draw a direct link between delays in health care and the bonuses of about $9,000 and salary increases that hospital officials receive as a result of their performance appraisal.
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The inspector general probe released Wednesday found that 1,700 veterans who are patients at the Phoenix hospital are not on any official list awaiting appointments, even though they need to see doctors. Some 1,138 veterans in Phoenix had been waiting longer than six months just to get an appointment to see their primary doctors, investigators found.
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Investigators said they are now looking into 42 medical facilities in connection with health care delays, the number rising sharply from 26 last week and 10 the week before that.

Dr. Hal Scherz tells War Stories from VA Hospitals in the Wall St Journal including the fact that Administrators limited operating time so that work stopped by 3 pm.

The federal government runs two giant health-care programs—Medicare and the VA system. Medicare is provided by private physicians and other providers. Its finances are a mess, but the care that seniors receive is by and large outstanding. The VA health-care system is run by a centrally controlled federal bureaucracy. Ultimately, that is the source of the poor care veterans receive.
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The best solution for veterans would be to wind down the VA hospitals. The men and women who have served in our armed forces should be supplied with a federally issued insurance card allowing them to receive their care in the community where it can be delivered better and more efficiently.

Whistleblower says Texas VA is run like a 'crime syndicate' as wait times averaged 115 DAYS and Republicans push for private-care vouchers

'For lack of a better term, you’ve got an organized crime syndicate,' a Texas VA whistle-blower told the website's reporter. 'People up on top are suddenly afraid they may actually be prosecuted and they’re pressuring the little guys down below to cover it all up.”
'I see it in the executives' eyes,' the whistle-blower added. 'They are worried.'
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Congressional Republicans have responded to the crisis by demanding that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki allow veterans to seek private medical care – with full reimbursement – if they wait more 30 days or more for treatment.  House Veterans Affairs Committee chair Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican, said Tuesday that he would soon introduce a bill to cement that demand into policy.'We simply can't afford to wait for the results of another investigation into a problem we already know exists,' Miller said in a statement.
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The VA's health care division could have trouble explaining its failures since records show it is flush with cash it hasn't been spending.  The Daily Caller reported Tuesday that the VA will 'carry over' about $450 million in medical care funding from fiscal year 2014 to fiscal year 2015.  Shinseki was given $54.6 billion to work with overall this year – an annual allocation $10 billion higher than in the first full-year Obama budget.

But the scandal is very personal for the families involved.

He Turned to His Local VA for Help, but They Allegedly Turned Him Away. Roughly One Week Later, He Was Dead

When Sgt. Isaac Shawn Sims, 26, an Iraq veteran, turned to the Kansas City VA Medical Center for help, he was allegedly turned away. His mother, Patricia, says her son badly needed treatment for traumas suffered in combat.  On Sunday, Sims was shot and killed by police officers following a tense standoff.

Sims had his eardrum blown out and has “80 percent disability from brain injuries,” his mother told KCTV. But his injuries are not just physical. Patricia Sims said her son suffered from severe depression, migraines and PTSD as a result of watching his friends die in combat.  “He had to pick up body parts, he had to move forward as if nothing happened,” the mother recalled.

Patricia said she knew her son badly needed help after she witnessed her son driving around in his Hummer like he was back in a war zone. He reportedly told his mom, “this is how we look for IEDs mama.”

Frightened and worried, they asked the VA for help. They didn’t expect to receive the response that they claim they did.
They said ‘we don’t have room for you.’ ‘Your problem is not big enough.’ ‘You’ll have to wait.’ ‘Get in line.’ ‘We’ll give him treatment in 30 days if a bed comes available,’” Patricia Sims said.

Family: V.A. Cops Stomped On Veteran’s Head, Killing Him

The family of a 65 year-old veteran claims that VA police stomped on the veterans head and neck, causing him to suffer a stroke and die several weeks later, a new lawsuit alleges.

On May 25, 2011, Jonathan Montano was waiting several hours to undergo dialysis treatment at the Loma Linda VA facility when he grew frustrated, reports Courthouse News Service.  With an IV still in his arm, Montano made his way towards the hospital exit, saying that he would get treatment at the Long Beach VA facility instead.

Norma Montano, the veteran’s wife of 44 years, left the hospital to retrieve the couple’s car.  But VA police wouldn’t let Montano leave, the lawsuit alleges.

“The summoned VA Police Department police officers then stopped Jonathan Montano from leaving the VA Hospital in Loma Linda, by tackling him to the floor, slamming his head on the floor, and kneeing and stomping on his neck, and otherwise brutalizing and restraining him,” reads the lawsuit, according to Courthouse News.  “This kneeing and stomping on his neck by the VA Police Department police officers caused the dissection of his carotid artery, that resulted in immediate (or very soon thereafter) blood clotting, which resulted in [his] suffering a stroke

But, she claims, hospital staff initially said Montano suffered the stroke after a fall — an “untrue statement,” the suit alleges.

“Later on, one of the nurses at the VA Hospital in Loma Linda took Norma Montano aside, and told her that her husband didn’t fall, but was slammed to the ground by the VA Police, that Norma Montano was being lied to, and that it wasn’t right what the VA Police did to Jonathan Montano,” the suit alleges.
Posted by Jill Fallon at May 29, 2014 10:18 AM | Permalink