Grassroots Commentary

Liar, Liar, the VA Is on Fire!

Leigh Bravo · Jun. 2, 2014

Is there anyone in this Administration who is telling the truth?

Let’s look at the current situation with the VA and what the current administration knew and when.

Senator Obama was speaking at a campaign rally in Charleston, West Virginia on March 20, 2008 and said,

“At a time when we’re facing the largest homecoming since the Second World War, the true test of our patriotism is whether we will serve our returning heroes as well as they’ve served us.”

When President Obama took office in 2009, his transition team was told that the VA medical center’s wait list times were not a reality and in effect risked denying military heroes the health care they needed and were entitled to receive. New evidence shows that the Obama team knew the Veterans Administration was denying medical care to vets with secret off-the-books waiting lists, and that they were reaching a critical point.

A year ago, on July 23, 2012, President Obama gave a speech to the 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. In his speech he made references to several problems with the VA and its health facilities,

“So when I hear about service members and veterans who had the courage to seek help but didn’t get it, who died waiting, that’s an outrage. And I’ve told Secretary Panetta and Secretary Shinseki we’ve got to do better. This has to be all hands on deck. I will not rest until we’ve got this right.”

On May 19, 2014, when White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, was asked when President Obama found out about the VA Scandal. he said,

“We learned about them through the reports on your network and I believe that is when Secretary Shenseki learned about them and immediately took the action that he has taken including instigating his own review but also requesting that the Inspector General investigate.”

But wait…….

If we look back, in 2009, allegations were made by five whistle blowers from the VA medical facility in Jackson, Mississippi, alleging that the staff routinely failed to properly clean and sterilize reusable medical equipment such as scalpels and bone cutters. Another claimed that thousands of radiology images were unread resulting in missed diagnoses of serious and fatal illnesses. The VA investigated the case and substantiated many of the allegations and took steps to fix the problems, but they continued. The case was referred to Secretary Shinseki in March of 2013. Carolyn Lerner, from the Office of Special Counsel, sent a letter to the White House and Congress regarding the issues in March of 2013. Complaints from this facility were reported to the VA as early as 2009. Gloria Kelley, one of the whistle blowers was never interviewed during the course of the investigation which is still under review even though the first allegations were made in 2009.

Oliver Mitchell, a Marine veteran and former patient services assistant at the VA in Los Angeles, said the department chief, Dr. Suzie El Saden initiated discussions in the department to cancel exams and destroy veterans’ military files so no record would exist, thus reducing the backlog they were experiencing, which reflected badly on the hospital’s efficiency. Mitchell filed a complaint with the Inspector General, who instead of investigating, gave the complaint back to the facility in LA and made them aware that Mitchell had filed the complaint. In January 2011, Mitchell wrote to Congress about the issue and in March, 2011 he was fired.

Dr. Stephen Coughlin, a senior epidemiologist with the VA’s office of Public Health, told a subcommittee of the House Committee on Veterans’s Affairs (HVAC) in March of 2013 that the VA ignored veterans who had suicidal thoughts. Over 2,000 vets stated they would be better off dead, and in 95% of those cases, the VA did not follow-up or make any attempt to help them. Several of those Vets committed suicide. Coughlin was ordered to suppress data on these vets and when he tried to go to his supervisor, he was threatened, and they initiated disciplinary action against him, which he says is a common practice. He left the VA in December of 2012 and testified 3 months later.

A new internal report says,

“Delays and manipulation are systemic throughout the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA), that as many as 1,700 veterans were affected in the Phoenix VA system alone and that the scandal could extend to 42 medical facilities, a substantial increase from previous estimates.”

Millions of dollars in bonuses were paid out to these VA facilities based on their purposeful lies and on the backs and lives of our Veterans. Bonuses that were paid out even when the administration was well aware that the books were being cooked.

Steps need to be taken NOW. People need to be held accountable NOW. People need to be fired NOW!!!

President Obama refused to fire Secretary Shenseki, yet Shenseki tried to bring closure to the VA scandal by firing the VA undersecretary of health, Dr. Robert Petzel. However, Dr. Petzel has already announced his retirement and Obama had already announced his replacement. Is that what the administration calls accountability? Who did Obama decide to fill the vacant position with? Dr. Jeffrey Murawsky, the director of VA’s Great Lakes health Care system in Winchester, Illinois. He actually had oversight responsibility of the Edward Hines VA hospital where millions of dollars were spent on bonuses during the past 3 years., and the facility where five veterans died waiting for care. In 1999, the VA concluded that,

“Hines has the most inefficient physical plant for inpatient care and the most significant compliance issues with patient privacy.”

So now the man in charge of the worst regional office in the country has been placed in a position to oversee the entire VA system? That is your federal government at work.

Democrats are shouting that 43% of Americans believe that the problems at the VA are due to recent budget caps and inadequate financial resources. The VA’s budget was doubled from $57 billion from $28 billion since 2003, while the patient load was up only one-third over that same period. Once again, President Obama’s response to most problems is to throw hard earned tax dollars at any problem and hope that it sticks. This, instead of true leadership and accountability of those leading the charge. However, the discovery of the millions of dollars paid out in bonuses to the incompetents running the VA hospitals could very well be the biggest problem along with total governmental and bureaucratic incompetence.

We all know how difficult it is to fire or hold accountable anyone in the federal government. In response to this dire situation, the Republicans in the House drafted legislation that would give the administration the power it needs to hold high level officials accountable for the complicity in this scandal. The VA Management Accountability Act, passed the House of Representatives with huge bipartisan support. It also passed the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously as well. But upon reaching the Senate, Harry Reid and the Democratic majority are preventing the bill from passing. What is that all about?

What are the Democrats and President Obama afraid of? Add the VA scandal to the growing list of questionable activities by this Administration, and we just might find out that it is time to eliminate the majority of government agencies and get back to the basics of our Constitution and the free enterprise system of real accountiblity.

We know it is definitely time to shout, “LIAR, LIAR THE VA IS ON FIRE!!!!”

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