In a recent broadcast by NBC News (May 15 2004), Rich Gardella &Talesha Reynolds reported that internal memos show that the Veteran’s administration (VA) has been playing “whack a mole” for at least six years in an effort to hide delays in health care for military veterans – a practice which may have resulted in many unnecessary deaths.
According to NBC, verifiable evidence shows that VA employees, around the country used DOZENS of different “scheduling tricks” to hide these substantial delays in health care provided to deserving America’s veterans.
But there’s even worse news about these cynical bureaucrats, who now are candidates for criminal charges being laid against them in the future:
Whenever the VA tried (or tries) to stop its staffers from “gaming the system,” the staffers came up (and still come up) with new techniques.
START WHISTLING … AND SOME OF THESE “GAMERS” MAY SOON BE OFF TO JAIL
Courageous whistleblowers around the country (who probably will now be fired — the Obama way of handling such scandals — are now accusing the VA of hiding a significant delay in veteran patient care through the use of “bookkeeping tricks”.
And here’s the “smoking gun” which could land them all in the hoosegow:
A former doctor at a VA facility in Arizona says the delays may have contributed to the deaths of FORTY patients.
GAMING THE SYSTEM CAN BE ADDICTIVE … ESPECIALLY IF YOU’LL BE PROMOTED FOR YOUR EFFORTS
In an April 26, 2010 memo, the VA’s deputy undersecretary for health administrative operations, William Schoenhard, reported:
“It has come to my attention that in order to improve scores on assorted access measures, certain facilities have adopted use of inappropriate scheduling practices sometimes referred to as ‘GAMING STRATEGIES’ … This is not patient-centered care.”
Schoenhard then listed TWO DOZEN different tactics, identified in a 2008 study, which VA facilities around the country had been utilizing. to cut down on the officially recorded time that patients had to wait for care.
These “cheating” techniques included:
Pretending that appointments cancelled by the clinic were cancelled by the patient … as well as refusing to schedule appointments for patients when there was no appointment available within 30 days.
Instead, according to NBC, patients were told to wait a month and then call back then (delaying treatment for their injuries for an entire month, during which there could be harmful medical setbacks — even the untreated patient dying).
WHISTLE WHILE THESE MENDACIOUS CLOWNS DO THEIR DIRTY WORK
Two of the techniques, described in the memo, closely resemble the methods described by the whistleblowers who have gone public recently, with claims that VA facilities have disguised actual patient waiting times.
The “memo” discusses how a “written appointment log book” CAN BE USED TO AVOID ENTERING LONG WAIT TIMES INTO THE ELECTRONIC WAITING LIST SYSTEM.
AND IT ALSO FORBIDS THE USE OF ANY WRITTEN LOG WHICH COULD LATER BE DISCOVERED BY INVESTIGATORS.
Dr. Samuel Foote, the Arizona whistleblower, now says that, as recently as 2013, the Phoenix VA was using paper records — with actual patient wait times — to avoid entering those wait times into the official electronic system.
According to Foote, this office’s staff could do that three ways:
(1) either entering the wrong date; (2) neglecting to enter any date; or (3) entering the earliest available date as the patient’s desired date.
According to NBC, these methods closely resemble what whistleblower, Brian Turner, alleges occurred at VA facilities in Austin & San Antonio within the past year and a half.
It also mirrors what a VA coordinator, at a facility in Wyoming, seemed to be advising VA schedulers to do in an email message written in June 2013.
PERHAPS IT’S TIME FOR THE VA’S TOP ADMINISTRATORS TO STOP PLAYING GAMES
This administrator approvingly noted, in his memo, that loyal employees (who didn’t want to be fired) were continuing to come up with new methods for “GAMING THE SYSTEM”.
Dr. Foote alleges that, during 2013,. Phoenix VA hospitals were able to work around the “Create Date” provision by (1) filling in the data on the electronic system, and then (2) printing out what was on screen to create a paper record; and then (3) not saving what was on screen.
THE PAPER RECORD, Dr. Foote charged, was used TO BUILD A SECOND, “SECRET” WAITING LIST.
And whistleblower Brian Turner, who began working at the Austin VA in December 2012, said he was coached on how to game the “desired appointment date” field in the electronic system after his arrival, AND that the same method was also used at the San Antonio VA facility, where he moved to in December 2013.
COOKING THE BOOKS
At a Ft. Collins (Colorado) outpatient clinic, the VA’s “Office Of The Medical Inspector” report, from December 2013, shows a dramatic change after March 15, 2013 – the date of Schoenhard’s memo – in the number of appointments scheduled within 14 days of the patient’s desired date (as previously allegedly suggested by top VA executives). Fourteen days is the VA’s official target window for providing timely appointments to patients.
Asked to explain “what occurred in March 2013,” employees — who were interviewed –told investigators “they were instructed by Business office staff to access the appointment schedule, review it for capacity, inform the victimized veteran of schedule availability, and then enter the “Desired Date” as the patient “appointment date.”
EMPLOYEES TOLD INVESTIGATORS THAT APPOINTMENTS WERE SOMETIMES UNAVAILABLE FOR AS LONG AS SIX TO EIGHT WEEKS, BUT “BY ENTERING THE DESIRED DATE AS THE APPOINTMENT DATE, THE WAIT TIME … LOOKS LIKE IT’S ZERO DAYS.”
The Ft. Collins clinic is overseen by the Cheyenne (Wyoming) VA office, which was the source of the June 19, 2013 email from a coordinator providing instructions on how to manipulate the desired date.
LE’TS PLAY GAMES
“YES, IT IS GAMING THE SYSTEM A BIT,” PURPORTEDLY SAID THE EMAIL. “BUT YOU HAVE TO KNOW THE RULES OF THE GAME YOU ARE PLAYING.”
Typical of an Obama administration department, the VA would not respond to the NBC allegations of wrongdoing.
MY TAKE ON THIS PERNICIOUS SCANDAL
So what’s my take on this surprising NBC report?
Well, first of all, someone definitely deserves to go to jail for aiding & abetting the deaths of so many U.S. military veterans.
But in this age of Obama White House corruption, all of the alleged offenders will probably be promoted … not to mention receiving special bonuses for their “outstanding work”.
And what would I say to the Cabinet secretary, Eric K. Shinseki, who was (and still is) in charge of this mess?
“Shame on you Mr. Shinseki!
” I really wonder how such an inept & unapologetic administrator, like you, sleeps at night?
“Like Pontius Pilot, you probably compulsively wash your hands every hour, knowing that metaphorically you have the blood of so many murdered military veterans on your hands.
MY WISH FOR THIS INEPT & UNAPOLOGETIC SCOUNDREL
“Hopefully, business and politicians will shun you in the future, when you try to cash in on your cabinet position to secure the kind of high-paying jobs you once expected.
“Pack your bags and be prepared for your forced ‘emigration’ to jail, Mr.Shinseki; or (at best) expect to surreptitiously flee to Hawaii, to play golf with America’s biggest prevaricator of all, Barack Obama!”
And for readers who would like to hear the response to this scandal, by one of America’s most celebrated Viet Nam veterans, please click on the Web link immediately below, or open it in your Web browser:
Murray Soupcoff is editor and co-author of “Good Buy Canada” and author of “Canada 1984”.
He was a founding member (and senior partner) of Ian Sone & Associates Ltd — Canada’s first independent social-research company specializing in the evaluations of federal, provincial & municipal government projects in Canada.
He is also the publisher of the FREE “Soupcoff Report” investment newsletter, whose distribution is partly subsidized by paid subscriptions from former research clients.
You can e-mail Murray Soupcoff at: firstname.lastname@example.org