We recently reported that employees in some VA hospitals shredded records of veterans in order to lessen the claims processing workload. But this latest revelation isn’t simply a concern, it’s incredibly disturbing.
As reported by Foxnews.com, “A Veterans Affairs official accused of keeping double books to hide the fact that dozens of veterans died awaiting care previously ran a Washington state VA facility that allegedly fudged suicide numbers. The VA official, Sharon Helman, director of the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, is accused with other management officials of keeping a fake waiting list that made it appear sick veterans were being treated in a timely manner — while hiding the real list that showed up to 1,600 sick veterans were waiting months to see a physician.
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, said investigators have evidence that two sets of records were kept by the facility to conceal the lengthy delays in care. At least 40 veterans on the secret list allegedly died while waiting for appointments, prompting congressional committees to launch investigations into the circumstances surrounding the deaths.
Incompetence and grave mishandling within the Veterans Administration have grown out of control and MUST be addressed by none other than the president. Out campaigning, Obama made plenty of speeches before Veteran’s Service Organizations. When was the last time you saw Michele Obama and Dr. Jill Biden on a military installation talking about military families? No more grandstanding photo ops before troops. It’s time to admit that the Head of the Veterans Administration, General Eric Shinseki, has not properly overseen this organization and if these allegations of veterans deaths are confirmed, he should be dismissed.
From July 2007 through the first week of July 2008, at least 22 veterans in the Spokane VA service area committed suicide. During that same time period, however, Spokane VA reported nine suicides and 34 attempted suicides, according to Military.com and other media outlets. Helman was director of the Spokane facility at the time the number of suicides were being misreported. Shortly after news revealed that such data had been falsified, Helman was transferred to the VA facility in Hines, Ill., after having spent less than two years in Spokane. From there, Helman moved to Phoenix, where she became director of the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system in February 2012.
Public records show that Helman received a $9,345 bonus last year, in addition to her annual base salary of $169,900.
“Leadership, management and accountability is all we have ever required of the VA,” William A. Thien, a Vietnam veteran from Georgetown, Ind., who leads the 1.9 million-member VFW and its auxiliaries, said in a statement Thursday. “When you deal with lives, there should be no leniency granted to anyone with any knowledge of this alleged coverup, to include everyone in Phoenix who knew but didn’t tell, and those in oversight positions at the VA network and VA headquarters in Washington who knew but didn’t care,” Thien said.
I could not agree more with Mr. Thien’s comments. But will there be any accountability? Well, based on precedent — IRS, Fast and Furious, Benghazi — I’m not holding my breath.
Our men and women who have been willing to give “the last full measure of devotion” deserve far better. We are at a horrible time in America where we have major newspapers publishing opinion pieces that denigrate and demean our veterans. And we have a government agency that seemingly enables their death.