Over 2 years after the VA scandal made national news, we are just beginning to learn the extent of the lies, abuse, and cover-ups that plague the veteran care agency.
Supervisors instructed employees to falsify patient wait times at Veterans Affairs’ medical facilities in at least seven states, according to a USA TODAY analysis of more than 70 investigation reports released in recent weeks. Overall, those reports — released after multiple inquiries and a Freedom of Information Act request — reveal for the first time specifics of widespread scheduling manipulation.
Employees at 40 VA medical facilities in 19 states and Puerto Rico regularly “zeroed out” veteran wait times, the analysis shows. In some cases, investigators found manipulation had been going on for as long as a decade. In others, it had been just a few years.
In many cases, facility leaders told investigators they clamped down the scheduling improprieties after the Phoenix scandal, but in others, investigators found they had continued unabated.The manipulation masked growing demand as new waves of veterans returned from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and as Vietnam veterans aged and needed more health care.
It should not have taken this long to get answers from the VA investigations. But now that we finally have evidence of wrongdoing, there should be swift and harsh consequences for those who cheated our veterans out of the medical care they deserved.
This is an agency-wide epidemic of criminal behavior. Veterans lost their lives due to scheduling cover-ups. The employees and leadership who participated should be prosecuted and thrown in jail.