The Department of Veterans Affairs apologized Thursday to the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee for providing it with inaccurate information in a fact sheet detailing delays in the diagnosis of gastrointestinal cancers.
The fact sheet, released to the committee in April, said 76 veterans had been seriously harmed, and 23 died, after delays in getting tests that confirmed a GI cancer. In a story earlier this month, the Tampa Bay Times reported the fact sheet erroneously suggested the review involved cases going back to 1999 when, in fact, only cases from fiscal 2010 and 2011 were counted.
The incorrect information was repeated by VA officials testifying before Congress and in briefings before committee staff.
A VA statement given to the committee Thursday said the agency had conducted several different reviews of delays in consultation referrals at VA hospitals. One review did go back to 1999, the VA said. A separate review looked at just GI cancer cases in 2010 and 2011.
But the different reviews "have been intertwined in written and oral statements leading to confusion," the VA said.
"VA cares deeply for every veteran we are privileged to serve," the statement said. "VA inadvertently caused confusion in its communication on this complex set of reviews that were ongoing at the time. For that, we apologize. There was no intent to mislead anyone with respect to the scope or findings of these reviews."
Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the committee, said he did not believe VA assertions that the errors and omissions were inadvertent.
"VA officials let this false impression fester for four months until they were confronted about the scheme by Congress and the media," Miller, R-Pensacola, said in a statement. "The department is now attempting to chalk all this up to a misunderstanding. But the explanation doesn't pass the smell test. This is a blatant attempt to mislead Congress, the media and the public."
Contact William R. Levesque at [email protected] or (813) 226-3432.