VA’s legacy: Intolerable treatment
Scandalous headlines about outrageous waits for Department of Veterans Affairs health care are new — but the problem isn’t. The VA, veterans groups, the Government Accountability Office and Congress have known about deceptive, detestable VA waiting-list practices for years — which only makes this scandal worse.
The Associated Press reports “gaming strategies” aimed at making it appear that the VA was meeting its 30-day target for scheduling medical appointments were detailed by a VA deputy undersecretary in a 2010 memo. The fake appointments, false computerized records and real paper records it describes are all too familiar from news stories lately.
That memo ordered such practices to stop — but they didn’t. Nor did they stop after VA inspector general and GAO reports to Congress that go back a decade .
Veterans groups say there aren’t enough VA medical personnel to meet demand. But VA staffers falsifying appointment records to cover themselves in the eyes of top VA leaders in Washington is a response to that personnel shortage that betrays the agency’s sacred duty to veterans — too many of whom died awaiting care.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s Friday resignation must mark the beginning of the thorough, top-to-bottom housecleaning necessary to remedy this outrage, which has persisted far too long. And ultimately, Congress must force the VA to do what it hasn’t for far too long: put veterans’ well-being first.