VA scandal hits mainstream media – finally

As Senior Voice reported last month, the Veterans Health Administration has been caught in a cover-up of the mismanagement of our veterans’ waiting lists for some of their most critical medical screening services. This scandal now has spread to more than just the Phoenix VA Hospital, with more to come as the layers of the onion keep getting pealed back.

The death toll of the gastrointestinal screening exam delays we reported last month now stands at over 100 with retired VA doctors lining up to testify about the abuses they encountered while working at the VA.

I say better late than never. Of course these “whistle blowers” are the ones receiving the anal exams by the news media and not our veterans. Since last issue we have learned that some of the VA senior managers who received bonuses for on-time and speedy treatment goals did so by destroying waiting lists so their numbers would meet the bonus benchmark.

So far the VA Secretary, Retired Army General Eric Shinseki, has accepted the resignation of the soon-to-be-retired-anyway Dr. Robert Petzel, the Under Secretary for Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs. So I guess the problem is solved unless of course you are still in waiting line for a colonoscopy or other screening procedure as your cancer continues to spread past the point of treatment.

Job well done. You found a scapegoat and ran him out of Washington with full retirement benefits a few weeks before his scheduled retirement date. That sort of harsh punitive action ought to have all those top managers in Phoenix and other VA healthcare facilities quaking in their boots. Give the man a cigar.

An electronic waitlist system was installed system-wide in 2002 but the Phoenix region has delayed installation for the past 12 years. What was the purpose of the new system, you ask? It was the elimination of the pencil and paper waiting lists that were if not illegally then most certainly unethically and immorally manipulated to show better statistics so managers could receive bonuses. All the dots are now connected in plain sight and the picture they portray is not a pretty one.

I reckon I am going to have to state the obvious here when I say that there is an implied contract between the federal government and anyone who raised their hand and swore to defend this country with their life if needed to protect our way of life. The very least we should do is provide the health care our veterans were promised in a timely manner. If any group has earned a right to health care, it’s our veterans. The best things the Veterans Health Administration can do at this point is fess up, man up and clean up the mess.

I should point out that I have no reports of malfeasance like the above incidences at our local VA clinics. We should be grateful for our local VA healthcare system that serves our 70,000 plus Alaska veterans.

Family supplemental health care coverage

On a lighter note, I would like to thank all of the organizations that manned booths at Fort Richardson’s Military Retiree Appreciation Day in May. I received some new information I would like to pass on to the veterans who are not yet 65 and need family supplement health care coverage. The plan is CHAMPVA and is offered through the American Military Retirees Association. You can call 1-800-638-2610 for information and they will mail you a brochure with all the FAQs.

If you are over 65 you may not need this but you haven’t reached that golden age you might.

Until next month, here’s to good health. Major Mike RTB.

Mike Dryden is a retired Army Major and current board member of Older Persons Action Group, Inc.