There have been a number of news stories in the last few weeks illustrating the systemic failure of the Veterans Administration Hospitals. Disturbing revelations have come to light that the Phoenix, AZ veteran’s administration hospital was keeping a “shadow list” of appointments and that the actual delay in seeing a doctor was not being reported to the government or the oversight committee that watchdogs the Veteran’s Hospitals. These leaks have led to other disclosures from widely-scattered VA hospitals showing that the problem was not localized in Arizona.
“Our veterans, having given years to the defense of our country, deserve and need the best medical and psychiatric care they can get.”
Ten years after the U.S. first invaded Iraq, returning troops are filing for disability benefits, seeking medical treatment, and struggling with combat trauma. Our veterans, having given years to the defense of our country, deserve and need the best medical and psychiatric care they can get. As VA spending climbs, the number of public and private groups continue to help with the challenges that face many vets.
We have spent almost $1.8 trillion in war spending, and that number is expected to rise to over $5 trillion in the years ahead. None of that has been earmarked for Iraq or Afghanistan veterans’ disability and medical payments. The current VA budget is not enough to pay for essential services in the many VA hospitals across the country, although it is enough to pay bonuses to hospital administrators.
Just a few of the locations that have recently had troubles include:
- Colorado: Clerks at the Ft Collins VA Hospital were allegedly instructed to falsify documents showing that veterans were seeing the small staff of overworked doctors within the 14 day time period set by the VA.
- Arizona: Senators McCain and Flake are calling for an investigation into allegations that delays were instrumental in the deaths of over 40 veterans in the Arizona VA hospital program. Three officials in the Phoenix VA hospital have already been placed on leave after allegations that a ‘shadow list’ was kept of new patients to cover the delays in their system.
- Florida: Governor Scott has called for a review of the circumstances behind a number of deaths of vets being treated for cancer in the Florida VA system. These deaths also sparked a controversy when the Veterans Administration refused to divulge the hospitals where these deaths occurred.
- Mississippi: Allegations have been raised that, over the last six years, poor sterilization procedures, chronic understaffing and incorrect diagnoses have plagued the Mississippi VA hospitals.
- South Carolina: Six cancer deaths at the Columbia VA hospital have been linked to delays in seeing a doctor or receiving treatment through the hospital.
- Georgia: The suicides of 3 veterans are being blamed on mismanagement of the hospital’s mental health unit and are currently being investigated by the federal government.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is under fire by federal lawmakers and has vowed to get to the bottom of the problems. He has tasked the VA inspector general with investigating the Phoenix hospital’s current problems. President Obama, although retaining Shinseki as VA Secretary, has said he will “make sure there is accountability.”
Over 32,000 veterans have returned from Iraq with combat injuries; these men and women are relying on the VA hospital system to provide them with the necessary care the need to heal their bodies and minds. When the system fails them, they have limited options to receive care. Many of them are unable to work and rely on the government or families for help and care. Proud of their service, they choose not to bear the stigma of going on Medicaid, and therefore do not receive proper medical and mental care.
Our veterans deserve better. Much better.