• September 19, 2014

Concern grows over VA's practices

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Posted: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 11:45 pm

When local Air Force veteran Tal Clayter learned of the growing problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, he wasn’t surprised.

“That’s how it is,” he said Wednesday at the Harker Heights American Legion Post 573. “Veterans would like to see it improved. We like to be able to rely on the VA.”

Clayter said he hasn’t followed the news closely, but he knows about recent allegations that revealed up to 40 veterans in Arizona may have died because of delays in care and that a VA hospital in Phoenix kept a secret list of patients waiting for appointments to hide the treatment delays.

Similar allegations were reported in Fort Collins, Colo., and the Austin American-Statesman reported Wednesday an unnamed VA employee told the U.S. Office of Special Counsel he was told to manipulate appointment wait lists in Austin and San Antonio.

“They’re cooking the books to make the numbers look better,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, during a news conference Wednesday. “It’s an endemic problem in the VA system.”

Nick Schwellenbach, a spokesman for the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, said Wednesday he could not “confirm or deny” if a whistleblower from the Texas clinic came forward.

However, he did verify the Office of Special Counsel, a federal investigative agency that protects government whistleblowers, currently has 29 open referrals to the VA. “Those matters are in different stages of the investigative process,” Schwellenbach said.

Of those cases, 23 refer directly to “health and safety” within the VA system, he said.

In a typical referral, the Office of Special Counsel will take a complaint from a whistleblower, find out if the complaint “could be true,” and if so, hand over the investigation back to the agency, Schwellenbach said.

In the VA cases, the VA inspector general is investigating the matters with oversight from the Office of Special Counsel.

Cornyn said “something has gone terribly wrong” within the VA as a whole. Along with the national chapter of the American Legion, the senator is calling for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign, based on his “unresponsive leadership.”

“I think (the VA) needs to be looked over from stem to stern,” Cornyn said.

In bureaucracies on the scale of the VA, underlying entities are only as responsive as their leadership, he said.

“That’s why I say it goes all the way to the top. One thing a good leader does is provide good direction and accountability,” Cornyn said. “No matter what Congress does in changing the law, without strong leadership, it will not be successful.”

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, sent a letter to Shinseki on Wednesday, asking for a full investigation, specifically into the two affected Texas clinics.

“All responsible parties must be held accountable for these unconscionable actions,” he wrote. “That’s why I am asking you to respond with a plan of action within 10 days that details direct steps that will be taken to find the parties involved who are responsible for the heinous acts that have put the health and lives of so many veterans at risk.”

Shinseki, a retired general and former 1st Cavalry Division commander, has led the VA for five years. Frank Soares, adjutant of Killeen’s American Legion Post 223, said he can remember working with Shinseki in the Army and doesn’t agree with the way he is being treated right now.

“He was a good soldier and was a good administrator,” Soares said. “I think they are trying to find somebody to beat with a whip. I think they are being unfair to him. He has changed the system enough where people are getting waited on quicker than before.”

In a statement issued Wednesday, Central Texas Veterans Health Care System Director Sallie A. Houser-Hanfelder said the VA officials are reviewing procedures and scheduling practices at VA facilities in the area.

“All staff who schedule appointments also have been instructed to have refresher training to make sure policies are clear and being followed accurately,” according to the statement.

Houser-Hanfelder encourages veterans who feel they are not receiving the proper care to see a supervisor about their concerns.

Clayter said he typically waits about two to three weeks to be seen by the VA hospital in Temple. While it has problems with long waits and delays, he thinks it is a good hospital. “I believe it will improve because now the public knows. The public includes our leaders. The public is outraged.”

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2 comments:

  • Bubba posted at 4:05 pm on Thu, May 8, 2014.

    Bubba Posts: 695

    shinseki ordered the purchase of the illegal berets in order to fulfill his self-serving desire for appearance over substance, and the revival of the tanker's beret. After illegally buying the berets, and ticking off the Rangers, troops were adorned with ill-fitting, high-smelling chef's hats. When questioned by Congress, shinseki threw the CG at DLA under the bus, blaming him for the purchase. So the appearance of improvement at VA vice actual improvement is not a big surprise.

     
  • Eliza posted at 7:53 am on Thu, May 8, 2014.

    Eliza Posts: 760

    The only thing I can remember Gen Shinseki now Sec. of Veterans Affair, is the fact, he was involved in the beret incident below (read bottom article)

    Otherwise, since he was named Sec. of Veterans Affairs ,he hasn't been seen very often (if at all) by many of the general public or inside any VA hospital.
    The tax payers just send his check each month hoping he's on the job, checking at times that the VA Hospital employees are doing their own jobs.

    My only knowledge of the VA System and the care they give, is through the care given my husband at Temple VA and a few times at Austin Clinic several years ago.

    (I can say with that knowledge) that Austin clinic had problems a long time ago in the character of a few of the doctors being allowed to practice there.
    It pertained to one of the doctors trying to put the make on one of his male patients.

    The doctor who treated my husband at Austin (heart type ailment) a few times, prescribed him a medication that instead of helping to improve his life, nearly took his life.
    My husband took himself off of it when he realized what was happening ,but the doctor wrote it up in medical records (Always keep a copy of every medical record civilian or military collected on you). so that he would be in the clear if anything had happened to my husband, because of the medication he prescribed.
    My husband refused to return to that clinic.

    My husband has used the hospital in Temple for many things ,and is more satisfied with the service since they moved his Gold Team to the clinic at the old mall in Temple.
    He has had good doctors, never any problem at getting appointments (they are the ones really who make sure he has appointments). Any service he needs ,is provided,any medication also.

    The desk people at the main hospital can at times, be lax on their job, when they are BS'ing with each other or are more concerned in discussing each other's personal lives then seeing to he Veteran. The one who makes their paychecks possible.
    That I believe is because of lack of a supervisor who is not doing what they are paid to do.

    When Obama took office- He swore and be damned, he was going to take care of the veterans. It is time for him to step up since the problems in some VA hospital or clinics have been brought forward and keep that promise, especially since people have died. Too late for them now.

    If Sec of Veterans Affairs isn't able to keep control of those under his own supervision of command at the VA Hospitals, It is time for him to be replaced by someone who can.
    Hopefully he will be honorable enough to step down.


    Army Recalling China-Made Black Berets

    Published: May 2, 2001
    Facing growing criticism from Congress, the Army has decided to recall and dispose of hundreds of thousands of black berets made in China, officials announced today.

    Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, ordered the move after lawmakers voiced concerns that the purchase appeared to violate federal rules to buy American-made products if they are available.

    ''The Army chief of staff has determined that U.S. troops shall not wear berets made in China or berets made with Chinese content,'' the deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz, said in a statement today.

    Pentagon officials said the standoff with China over the detention last month of the crew of an American surveillance plane had increased the pressure to cancel the beret deal.

    The House Armed Services Committee held a briefing last week to address members' concerns that the Army was violating rules to ''buy American,'' officials said.
    The Army has countered that its decision to buy the berets from China and Sri Lanka, Romania, Canada and South Africa was in response to a tight deadline it set to acquire 1.3 million berets by June 14, the Army's birthday. One American manufacturer is furnishing some of the berets, officials said.

     

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