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Steve Knight: VA medical centers need oversight

Posted: April 29, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: April 29, 2014 2:00 a.m.

When veterans return home, their fighting days should be over. They put their lives on the line for their country and fought the good fight.

The Veterans Administration was created to ease their concerns when they come home and to take care of them, not to begin another battle.

Unfortunately for many vets across the country, the VA Medical Centers are failing at keeping these veterans healthy.

In Phoenix, the center is being blamed for 40 deaths. The reason? Patients were never seen for long-overdue medical exams.

Most of their deaths were preventable, and rather than having these patients seen, the center created an elaborate scheme to cover up the long waiting time.

What is the center doing to answer these allegations? Not much. Fingers are pointing and excuses are being made, but no real solutions are offered and no comfort provided to the families who have lost a loved one.

A few weeks ago, a whistle-blower came forward with allegations of inaccurate records, preventable or premature deaths, mismanagement and other systemic problems in Phoenix.

Dr. Sam Foote, who retired from the Phoenix VA in December, filed an inquiry with the VA Inspector General.

Dr. Foote alleges that the facility created dual lists. One list was a lie created to cover up the fact that between 1,400 and 1,600 sick veterans were waiting up to 21 months to see a doctor.

According to CNN, “the official list shows the VA was offering timely appointments within 14 to 30 days. Foote called this a ‘sham list’ because there was another secret document where waits were much longer.”

He claimed that the scheme was deliberately put in place to avoid the VA’s own rules, and the sophisticated plan involved shredding evidence to hide the real list.

VA officials even instructed the staff to not make veterans’ appointments in the computer system.

If these allegations are true, many resources were used to cover up this scheme. I wish this creativity focused on solving the problem — rather than concealing it.

The U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee is currently investigating this, and it is my hope that those responsible for these deaths are held accountable.

But the bigger issue here is the lack of staffing at these facilities. I hope the committee creates solutions for this under-staffing problem and ensures these patients are seen in a timely matter.

No one should have to wait months to see a doctor when he or she is sick — especially our veterans.

One patient who ran out of time was Thomas Breen. He went in the Phoenix VA hospital and was sent home after being deemed critical.

His family waited and waited to hear from the center for his next appointment, but the call came six days after Mr. Breen died.

No one who sacrificed so much for our country should be treated that way. These VA centers need our help.

Steve Knight is a Republican state senator representing part of the Santa Clarita Valley and the Antelope Valley.



Unreal: Posted: April 29, 2014 12:58 p.m.

The VA office in Newhall (The only one in SCV) has been closed for months. The one guy who ran it was out sick and I guess they figured we could go to the valley or Palmdale instead. I have been trying to have my Mothers claim processed (she is a Navy Vet). The original claim was processed and approved in about 5 months but only for a limited amount.

We had to provide info related to the caretakers (twice) and so far, since last year, it has not been approved. They did call her the other day and say her claim was going to another group for review so I hope it finally comes through before all her money is gone. She will lose her home and end up in a nursing home (or with me). Older people really have the quality of their life ruined when they are forced to give up their homes.

ricketzz: Posted: May 20, 2014 7:36 a.m.

Where was that famous Darrell Issa investigative and oversight committee when we really needed it? I thought one the main functions of the Congress was to inform the Executive and the People. They give billions annually to the VA and don't follow up to see how it's doing? This is a collective failure of everyone, inside the Beltway and not.

tech: Posted: June 6, 2014 8:06 p.m.

ricketzz: Posted: March 25, 2014 5:55 a.m.
"They generally like the care the VA delivers, too. Getting to the care is where automation is severely needed. There is a huge backlog of paper applications for disability status, several years worth."

Still stand by your assertions regarding government medical services delivery, ricketzz?

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