American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger on Wednesday told the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) leadership must be held accountable for mistakes that result in preventable deaths at its medical facilities.
Dellinger outlined several cases where veterans in VA Hospitals such as the Atlanta VA Medical Center, the G.V. Sonny Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi, the Pittsburgh VA Medical Center, and others where veterans died of an outbreak of Legionella bacteria, committed suicide, veterans dying of an overdose, among other unacceptable deaths treatments .
Dellinger told the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, “Patient deaths are tragic… preventable deaths are unacceptable. But failure to disclose safety information or worse to cover up mistakes, is unforgivable, and The American Legion will not sit quietly by while some VA employees cover up the truth, and the VA shouldn’t either.”
In Dellinger’s written report, he stated, “On November 14, 2013, The American Legion contacted the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and requested a copy of the same report. As of today, April 9, 2014 nearly five months later, VHA has yet to provide that report to the American Legion.”
When it came to the Atlanta VA Medical Center, Dellinger testified and said, “Two veterans died of an overdose, and one committed suicide, that was attributed to mismanagement and an inability to get the mental health care they needed in a timely manner. Veteran suicides continue to plague our nation at 22 per day, with no clear strategy from VA on addressing suicides proactively.”
Such deaths are inexcusable and Dellinger said that the Legion would continue to pressure the VA to correct these issues.
Dellinger said that when military officers commit serious mistakes, they can be court-martialed but when it comes to the VA and the senior executives, they are allowed to resign when no penalties and nothing changes.
Furthermore, Dellinger said that he travels to the VA medical centers and said he can see who care, whose there simply for a paycheck, some great chiefs of staff while others are just biding their time toward retirement.
“We all need to continue to ask the hard questions,” Dellinger told the committee. “What is VA doing to fix these problems, and are they concerned about keeping me informed? How is VA holding their leaders accountable for these errors?
“The American Legion will not stop asking the hard questions, and we hope you won’t, either.”