The Justice Department is expected to begin investigating the Department of Veterans Affairs in light of its current scandal. The VA is facing charges of record tampering and potential destruction of documents, not to mention medical neglect of veterans. The VA’s Inspector General is investigating 26 sites to assess whether employees covered up long wait-times for medical appointments, and the Justice Department is already getting involved.
The VA Scandal: What Happened?
President Obama has increased the Department of Veterans Affairs’ budget each year he’s been in office, with the goal of providing well-deserved health care to veterans. However, records show the agency has spent $489 million solely on upgrading conference rooms, new drapes, and new office furniture in VA offices across the country during Fiscal Years 2010 through 2014, instead of hiring more doctors. People within the VA reportedly created fake waiting lists to hide real, months-long waits — waits during which veterans have died. Currently, 26 VA facilities are being investigated nationwide.
Are Veterans Being Left to Die?
Upon retiring, Dr. Sam Foote of the Phoenix VA publicly claimed that patients died at his facility while awaiting care. The chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs later admitted that two sets of records were kept: one that was hidden (with the actual, lengthy wait-times), and another record showing falsified two-week waits. Investigators believe as many as 40 veterans may have died while waiting for appointments in Phoenix alone.
Lawmakers have been calling for the resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, while Congressional chairmen of the House and Senate veterans affairs committees are sticking by Shinseki — at least until they know how much he knew about the cover-ups. Those claiming the problems are bigger than Shinseki blame the fact that the VA has goals other than helping veterans, as well as a lack of accountability. Without a profit motivation to see more patients —VA doctors are paid the same amount regardless of how many patients they see — veterans in need of health care have continued to wait.
Rep. Jeff Miller, a Republican from Florida and chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, claims to have information “that will make what has already come out look like kindergarten stuff.” The VA reportedly has 118 accounts of oversight that Shinseki and others have yet to answer. Miller has had subpoenas issued for people involved to appear before his committee this week.