Arlington, VA – This week marks the three-year anniversary of the beginning of a wait list manipulation scandal that initially emerged at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in Phoenix, AZ and later, at VA facilities across the country.
In April of 2014, reports broke that VA employees at the Phoenix VA were purposefully keeping two sets of appointment records in an effort to hide how long veterans were really being forced to wait for their treatments and appointments. It later came out that the same issue was occurring at VA facilities across the country, and that thousands of veterans may have died as a result.
Since that time, less than ten VA employees have been terminated from wait list manipulation. However, wait times at the VA actually rose in the years following the scandal, and in October of 2016, an Office of Inspector General (OIG) report confirmed that veterans were still dying waiting for care at the Phoenix VA – a year after the scandal began. Another OIG report released this March confirmed widespread wait time inaccuracies at VA medical facilities in places like North Carolina and Virginia.
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) Policy Director Dan Caldwell issued the following statement:
“Very little has been done to fix the systemic issues that led to the Phoenix VA scandal three years ago, and as a result, wait time manipulation is still a huge problem at VA facilities across the country. The VA employees who continue to manipulate wait lists do so because they know it is nearly impossible to get fired at the VA. Strong accountability measures are needed to get bad VA employees out and end this scandal once and for all. Major veterans groups, President Trump, and Secretary Shulkin all stand in strong support of the VA Accountability First Act of 2017, and we urge the Senate to vote on this bill as soon as possible. Not one more veteran should die waiting for care.”
CVA supports the VA Accountability First Act of 2017, which recently passed through the House with bipartisan support and is supported by President Trump, VA Secretary Shulkin, and most major veterans organizations.
If passed, the VA Accountability First Act of 2017 would drastically shorten the overall termination and appeals process for VA employees who are found to have engaged in misconduct. Currently, that process can take months or even years. The bill also empowers the VA Secretary to recoup bonuses awarded in error or given to employees who were later found to have engaged in misconduct. Additionally, the bill gives the VA Secretary the ability to reduce the pensions of VA employees who are convicted of felonies that influenced their job performance.