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'Death Panels' at VA? Veterans allowed to die while on secret list

Veterans put on secret waiting list, denied life saving treatment
Veterans put on secret waiting list, denied life saving treatmentWikipedia - US Government, public domain

At least 40 veterans have died while waiting for appointments with doctors in the Veterans Affairs medical system, CNN reported last night. CNN reported that 1,400 to 1,600 veterans were put on a secret list and denied needed treatment.

“The secret list was part of an elaborate scheme designed by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix who were trying to hide that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor, according to a recently retired top VA doctor and several high-level sources,” CNN reported.

CNN interviewed Dr. Sam Foote, who retired after working for 24 years in the VA medical system in Phoenix, Arizona. Dr. Foote exposed the secret list by which veterans were denied treatment.

“There's an "official" list that's shared with officials in Washington and shows the VA has been providing timely appointments, which Foote calls a sham list. And then there's the real list that's hidden from outsiders, where wait times can last more than a year,” CNN reported.

The very existance of the other list and how it operated was reportedly covered up. Foote said the VA hospitals are supposed to treat veterans within 14 to 30 days, but those on the secret list were in many instances not being treated within this period of time.

"The scheme was deliberately put in place to avoid the VA's own internal rules," said Foote in Phoenix. "They developed the secret waiting list," said Foote.

CNN cited Foote as saying, “the elaborate scheme in Phoenix involved shredding evidence to hide the long list of veterans waiting for appointments and care. Officials at the VA, Foote says, instructed their staff to not actually make doctor's appointments for veterans within the computer system...Foote estimates right now the number of veterans waiting on the "secret list" to see a primary care physician is somewhere between 1,400 and 1,600.”

CNN reported on the case of Thomas Breen, who was placed on the secret list. Breen was taken to the VA hospital emergency room seeking treatment on September 28, 2013, reporting blood in his urine.

"They wrote on his chart that it was urgent," said Sally, her father-in-law's main caretaker. The family has obtained the chart from the VA that clearly states the "urgency" as "one week" for Breen to see a primary care doctor or at least a urologist, for the concerns about the blood in the urine, CNN reported.

Breen was sent home to die. He died on November 30, about two months later, and his death certificate attributes State 4 bladder cancer as his cause of death. His family got the call from the VA medical center on December 6, offering him an appointment, about a week after his death. Breen died likely due to lack of treatment, which itself appears to have been held up by the VA bureaucracy only.

This story, since being reported by CNN, has been covered by news outletes on both sides of the political spectrum, from Think Progress and The Huffington Post on the left to on the right. reported on the case of Thomas Breen, “Teddy says his Brooklyn-raised father was so proud of his military service that he would go nowhere but the VA for treatment. On September 28, 2013, with blood in his urine and a history of cancer, Teddy and his wife, Sally, rushed his father to the Phoenix VA emergency room, where he was examined and sent home to wait. "They wrote on his chart that it was urgent," said Sally, her father-in-law's main caretaker. The family has obtained the chart from the VA that clearly states the "urgency" as "one week" for Breen to see a primary care doctor or at least a urologist, for the concerns about the blood in the urine. "And they sent him home," says Teddy, incredulously. Thomas Breen died on November 30. The death certificate shows that he died from Stage 4 bladder cancer. Sally says her father-in-law realized toward the end he was not getting the care he needed. "At the end is when he suffered. He screamed. He cried. And that's somethin' I'd never seen him do before, was cry. Never. Never. He cried in the kitchen right here. 'Don't let me die.' " Teddy added his father said: "Why is this happening to me? Why won't anybody help me?"

Writing the story in, Guy Benson wrote, “Once you've recovered from your entirely justifiable fit of rage, allow me to make two points. First, a non-partisan observation: Our veterans -- men and women who served this country to protect and defend our freedoms -- deserve much, much better than this. Those responsible for these shameful policies in Phoenix are criminals, and should be treated as such. (The director of this division received $9,345 in bonuses last year, according to records).”

Benson noted that, while Barack Obama promised as a candidate to reduce the backlogs of veterans waiting for treatment at VA hospitals, the problem has become worse while Obama has been in the White House.

Many citizens and supporters of our veterans are outraged, that those who served us and defended our freedom and national security are receiving poor treatment at our VA hospitals and clearly are due and deserve the best treatment our medical system offers.

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