“Any time allegations like these come up, we’re going to take a look. We take them seriously...I just want veterans to know that VA is here to provide care for them. That’s our only mission.” - General Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs (May 7, 2014)
It was just last month (April, 18, 2014) that the Washington Post reported the headline, “VA hospitals on par with private sector for patient satisfaction.” Then, on April 24, 2014, a mere six days later, a whistleblower claimed that 40 U.S. veterans died after being placed on a secret list which delayed them in receiving medical treatment at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital in Phoenix, Ariz. Then there was a report of secret waiting lists in the VA facility in Fort Collins, Colo. followed by another “outlining a scheme for masking delayed treatment of patients at a VA medical facility in Wyoming.”
Now the problems with the VA have now hit the state of Texas.
On May 8, Brian Turner, a VA scheduling clerk in San Antonio, Texas, spoke with the Austin American-Statesman and revealed, “he and other scheduling clerks in Austin, San Antonio and Waco were directed by supervisors to hide true wait times at clinics by inputting false records into the VA’s scheduling system.” His statements described an “elaborate scheme” to falsify records to hide wait time data at VA medical facilities. Turner, himself a retired disabled veteran, worked at the VA's Austin Outpatient Clinic from Dec. 2012 to Dec. 2013 before transferring to the North Central Federal Clinic in San Antonio.
And in south Texas, Dr. Richard Krugman, former associate chief of staff at the Veterans Affairs Health Care System based in Harlingen, Texas, claimed a policy had been implemented in 2010 that delayed proper treatment for colorectal cancer to about 15,000 veterans in order to save costs.
On May 21, 2014, the Austin American-Statesman printed the story that Dr. Joseph Spann, who retired from the Austin Outpatient Clinic after 17 years, alleged in a letter to investigators that, “the chief of radiology at the VA’s Olin Teague Veterans’ Medical Center in Temple, Texas, just north of Austin, “regularly asked physicians to change their requested date for ultrasounds, MRIs and CT scans to hide the existence of long backlogs for tests.”
Spann said, "I cannot categorically say that I ever saw a patient die from such manipulated scheduling, but I did see several cancer patients have their possible surgery or chemotherapy treatments delayed awaiting the required radiology tests." However, investigating officials at the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System in Temple, Texas, said a review of Dr. Spann's allegations “revealed no requests were made by the Chief (of) Imaging Service to physicians to change the requested date for ultrasounds, MRIs and CT scans.”
In a rebuttal to the report, Spann said, “Central Texas investigating itself is just worthless. The truth will come out. So many doctors and clerks saw this that they won’t be able to make this go away.”
In a statement about Spann, one Austin Vietnam Veteran said, “Dr. Spann was my primary care doctor for 15 years. I can testify he was a caring physician and helped me to obtain a medical diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for me. And, as a fellow triathlete, I can attest that, despite the claims from the investigators from the VA, he is an honest and truthful man. If he said it, then it happened!”
However, with the reports of over 60 deaths being attributed to the phony hidden waiting lists in a scandal that is still unfolding, most veterans are still shaking their heads in disbelief with the recent news about Chelsie Manning. Manning, formerly known as Pvt. Bradley Manning, was made famous with his release of 750,000 classified documents from the Department of Defense to Wikileaks and was convicted in 2013 for violations of the Espionage Act. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has formally approved Manning “to be temporarily transferred out of military custody in order to undergo expensive hormone therapy and surgery to become a woman.”
So this is more important that getting veterans the treatment they were promised when they enlisted? No question: Hagel, himself a Vietnam Veteran, has forgotten what is like to be one and just slapped the faces of all other veterans and active duty military personnel!