EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

June 1, 2014

Column: We owe it to veterans to fix VA hospitals

With Memorial Day behind us, I’m afraid public attention to the ongoing VA scandal will vanish until we find out on Veterans Day that no one has done anything about it, yet, again.

Briefly, from the Associated Press: “Fake appointments, unofficial logs kept on the sly and appointments made without telling the patient are among tricks used to disguise delays in seeing and treating veterans at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics.

“They’re not a new phenomenon. VA officials, veteran service organizations and members of Congress have known about them for years ... ‘Cooking the books’ at VA hospitals has exploded into public view since allegations arose that up to 40 patients may have died at the Phoenix VA hospital while awaiting care ...”

Investigators are now trying to determine how widespread is the practice of falsifying records.

“It’s not that people haven’t brought this up before, it’s just the word ‘secret’ lists blew it up in the media,” Vietnam Veterans of America’s Richard Weidman said in an interview. “They weren’t secret, they were handwritten’ logs kept aside from computerized scheduling… People should stop the hysteria and say what the root of this problem is.”

Well, some of the hysteria has come from reports that some veterans who’ve died were suicides, mortally frustrated by their inability to get care -- as we learn that bonuses were given to VA employees who falsified the records to prove their own “competence.”

But I’m sure that Weidman is correct when he charges, according to AP, that “there are not enough medical personnel to meet the demand for VA health care.” He and other veterans groups “have complained for years that the VA budget -- though continually rising -- is too small to provide enough doctors, medical centers and services.”

However, the story notes that: “Independent reports have found that though access is a problem, VA care is equal to or better than that in the private sector.”

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