A Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General's interim report says that delaying medical care for veterans and cooking the books to cover up these delays were "systemic throughout" the entire VA health care system. As a result, Veterans Affairs Secretary Gen. Eric Shinseki's job has just become more insecure.
The interim report's executive summary reads:
Our reviews at a growing number of VA medical facilities have thus far provided insight into the current extent of these inappropriate scheduling issues throughout the VA health care system and have confirmed that inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic throughout VHA. One challenge in these reviews is to determine whether these practices exist currently or were used in the past and subsequently corrected by VA managers.
To date, our work has substantiated serious conditions at the Phoenix HCS. We identified about 1,400 veterans who did not have a primary care appointment but were appropriately included on the Phoenix HCS' EWLs. However, we identified an additional 1,700 veterans who were waiting for a primary care appointment but were not on the EWL. Until that happens, the reported wait time for these veterans has not started. Most importantly, these veterans were and continue to be at risk of being forgotten or lost in Phoenix HCS's convoluted scheduling process. As a result, these veterans may never obtain a requested or required clinical appointment. A direct consequence of not appropriately placing veterans on EWLs is that the Phoenix HCS leadership significantly understated the time new patients waited for their primary care appointment in their FY 2013 performance appraisal accomplishments, which is one of the factors considered for awards and salary increases.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) - along with House Democrats Ron Barber (Ariz.) and Carol Shea-Porter (N.H.) - all issued statements Wednesday evening calling for Shinseki to step down.
Sen. Mark Udall (D-N.M) also said that Shinseki should resign. Overall, 37 members of the House of Representatives, including 11 Democrats; and a dozen Senators, including four Democrats, have called for Shinseki to tender his resignation, according to USA Today.
Last week, Charles Krauthammer said that if the problems at Veterans Affairs stem from the bureaucratic mess of big government, then, he asks, "Why wouldn't you contemplate voucherizing and privatizing?"
Currently, the VA is turning to private hospitals to help treat the medical needs of veterans. Yet, on the recommendation of Dr. Krauthammer, should the policy makers in Washington D.C. begin discussing privatizing VA health care?
It's a legitimate debate given that VA health care is virtually single-payer, with veterans being sent to a government hospital and being cared for by a government doctor.
But, that's for the politicians to decide. Right now, confidence in Shinseki is dropping to the level of the grade point average of an "Animal House" student.