A new U.S. Senate report released Tuesday morning by U.S. Senator and doctor Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), revealed that besides long-waiting lists for veterans to see their doctors and the deaths that occurred at VA hospitals, a culture of crime, cover-ups, and coercion also occurred within the VA with inept congressional and agency oversight that allowed rampant misconduct to grow unchecked.
The report was released by Coburn titled, “Friendly Fire: Death, Delay, and Dismay at the VA” and was based on a year-long investigation of VA hospitals around the nation that chronicled the inappropriate conduct and incompetence within the VA that led to well-documented deaths and delays.
Although VA hospital and other medical center problems were evident over the years, the deaths of numerous veterans at the Phoenix VA hospital finally exposed that the Veterans Administration medical centers problems were much deeper than first thought.
“This reports shows the problems at the VA are worse than anyone imagined. The scope of the VA’s incompetence and Congress’ indifferent oversight is breathtaking and disturbing,” said Coburn. “This investigation found the problems at the VA are far deeper than just scheduling. Over the past decade, more than 1,000 veterans may have died as a result of the VA’s misconduct and the VA has paid out nearly $1 billion to veterans and their families for its medical malpractice.”
“As is typical with any bureaucracy, the excuse for not being able to meet goals is a lack of resources. But this is not the case at the VA where spending has increased rapidly in recent years,” Dr. Coburn said.
The report in part revealed a perverse culture within the department where veterans are not always the priority and data and employees are manipulated to maintain an appearance that all is well. Bad employees are rewarded with bonuses and paid leave while whistle-blowers, health care providers, and even veterans and their families are subjected to bullying, sexual harassment, abuse, and neglect. Delays exist for more than just doctors’ appointments and included disability claims, construction, urgent care, and registries are slow or behind schedule.
Despite a nursing shortage, many VA nurses spend their days conducting union activities to advocate for better conditions for themselves rather than veterans.
Other details of the finding found that despite having the authority to do so, the VA was reluctant to let vets off the waiting lists by freeing them go to doctors outside of its system while sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars intended for health care that went unspent year to year. VA doctors are seeing far fewer patients than private doctors and some even leave work early.