Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Military News

Q&A about claims of misconduct at VA hospitals

RECOMMENDED READING


PHOENIX — It started with a series of complaints from a recently retired doctor about delays in care that may have led to deaths at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs hospital. The VA started investigating, similar allegations surfaced in other states, and now the issue has the attention of President Barack Obama. Here is a look at some key facts about the issue:

Who is making the accusations?

Dr. Samuel Foote, a former clinic director for the VA in Phoenix, sent letters to the VA Office of Inspector General in December, complaining about systematic problems with delays in care.

Foote says as many as 40 veterans may have died while awaiting treatment at the Phoenix hospital and that staff, at the instruction of administrators, kept a secret list of patients waiting for appointments to hide delays in care. Since Foote's allegations, two more former Phoenix VA employees have made the same claims.

What is the VA's response?'

The VA Office of Inspector General said late Tuesday that 26 facilities are being investigated.

Phoenix administrators vehemently deny the allegations. The VA has so far found no evidence to substantiate the claims after an internal probe. The Phoenix hospital's director, Sharon Helman, scoffed at the notion that she would direct staff to create a secret list and watch patients die in order to get bonuses. Helman has been placed on leave while the Office of Inspector General investigates.

Some also question the motives of Foote and the others making accusations. One former employee who first raised concerns publicly a few weeks ago was fired last year and has a pending wrongful termination lawsuit against the hospital. Before he retired, Foote was reprimanded repeatedly for taking off nearly every Friday, according to internal emails he provided to the AP.

What is the overall state of the VA?

The VA operates the largest integrated health care system in the country, with more than 300,000 full-time employees and nearly 9 million veterans enrolled for care.

The Phoenix claims are the latest to come to light as VA hospitals and clinics around the country struggle to handle the enormous volume. VA facilities in South Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Texas, New Mexico and Illinois, among other states, have been linked to delays in patient care or poor oversight. An internal probe of a Colorado clinic found that staff had been instructed to falsify records to cover up delayed care at a Fort Collins facility. A nurse at a VA center in Cheyenne, Wyo., was put on leave this month and accused of telling employees to falsify appointment records.

The VA has acknowledged that 23 patients have died because of problems related to care since 1999, according to an ongoing nationwide internal VA review which showed that delays often occur when a doctor refers a patient to another physician, such as a specialist. During the same time period of the deaths, more than 250 million of these consults were requested.

The 23 deaths do not include a deadly Legionnaires' disease outbreak in the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System or three patient deaths blamed on mismanagement at the Atlanta VA hospital.

Comments
Sex assault reports declining at MacDill despite increase militarywide

Sex assault reports declining at MacDill despite increase militarywide

TAMPA — The number of sexual assaults reported to officials at MacDill Air Force Base has decreased dramatically during the past three years even as reports across the military have increased slightly, new Pentagon statistics show.Officials at MacDil...
Published: 11/20/17
Cyber firm accesses CentCom cloud information, gives command low security score

Cyber firm accesses CentCom cloud information, gives command low security score

Every day, military and civilian personnel stationed at the MacDill Air Force Base headquarters of U.S. Central Command use the Internet to reach out to foreign audiences in an effort to combat Islamic State propaganda.To help measure the success of ...
Published: 11/17/17
VA’s quiet plan to widen private care with TRICARE stirs concern

VA’s quiet plan to widen private care with TRICARE stirs concern

WASHINGTON — As part of its effort to expand private health care, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been developing plans to merge its health system with the Pentagon’s, a cost-saving measure that veterans groups say could threaten the viability...
Published: 11/17/17
Howard Altman: Missing records confound veterans on base exchange website

Howard Altman: Missing records confound veterans on base exchange website

In the more than three decades that I have been toiling at various paragraph factories, few stories have elicited as much response as the one I wrote about the new program to allow all honorably discharged veterans to shop at military base exchanges ...
Published: 11/17/17
She was an artist who answered a Craigslist ad. Next thing she knew she was best friends with a 93-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor

She was an artist who answered a Craigslist ad. Next thing she knew she was best friends with a 93-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor

University of Miami architecture student Emi Kopke still cannot believe her luck. She answered a Craiglist ad asking for an artist to do hand drawings for a special project. The self-taught artist sent in 15 of her hand drawings — including some of b...
Published: 11/11/17
As fewer serve, burden of war falls heavier on families with tradition of service

As fewer serve, burden of war falls heavier on families with tradition of service

When Lauren Price’s youngest son went off to fight in Iraq in 2008, she handed him a going-away present few parents could offer."I gave him my Iraqi cell phone," said Price, 52, a Navy veteran from New Port Richey who served in the same region of Ira...
Published: 11/10/17
Howard Altman: Army settles flap over who will wear the Green Beret

Howard Altman: Army settles flap over who will wear the Green Beret

I have a hard time picturing Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, a no-nonsense guy with plenty on his plate, taking time out of his busy day sorting through color swatches.But thanks to one of two recent victories in the battle for Army tradition, ...
Published: 11/09/17
Updated: 11/10/17

Target of racist graffiti wrote it, Air Force Academy says

The discovery of racist graffiti galvanized the Air Force Academy in September, and the superintendent of the Colorado campus turned that into a teaching moment with a speech about diversity and tolerance that found more than a million viewers on the...
Published: 11/08/17
Online expansion opens military exchange to another 240,000 shoppers in Tampa Bay area

Online expansion opens military exchange to another 240,000 shoppers in Tampa Bay area

TAMPA — Military exchanges like the one at MacDill Air Force Base have long offered big savings to active-duty troops, military retirees and their families.Starting Saturday, Veterans Day, deals like 25 percent off on watches, 30 percent off smokers ...
Published: 11/06/17
Updated: 11/10/17
Bowe Bergdahl, the former hostage who pleaded guilty to desertion, avoids prison

Bowe Bergdahl, the former hostage who pleaded guilty to desertion, avoids prison

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Bowe Bergdahl, the Army sergeant who walked off his post in Afghanistan and triggered a search that wounded some of his comrades, will serve no prison time, a military judge ruled Friday at the end of the politically divisive case...
Updated one month ago