In July 2015 a confidential complainant brought forward a number of allegations about the Phoenix VA Health Care System (PVAHCS). The VA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) then launched an investigation. According to the recently released report, some of the most shocking claims the OIG investigated were:
- “PVAHCS patients died waiting for consultative appointments. The complainant provided a copy of a report that listed 87 deceased patients and 116 open consults;
- PVAHCS had non-providers discontinue consults for vascular patients, potentially to hide the fact that a patient died while waiting for care;
- PVAHCS had more than 35,000 patients waiting for consults;
- PVAHCS patients were waiting in excess of 300 days for vascular care.”
The gravity of these and other similar instances of wrongdoing at various VA Health Care Systems across the United States had first come to light when the Veterans Health Administration released its Review of Alleged Mismanagement at the Health Eligibility Center in September, 2015.
Institutionalized Failures at VA: Mismanagement the Cause
Among other problems, the 2015 document shed light on the VA’s systemic inability to process applications for enrollment in a timely manner. The allegations about the Phoenix VAHCS in particular were presented shortly after the findings from the Review of Alleged Mismanagement were brought to the public attention.
If the 2015 investigation’s results raised alarm in both the government and public opinion, the inquiry into the Phoenix VAHCS is a testimony to just how damaging the mismanagement of VA health services can be for the lives of individual veterans.
200+ Veterans Died Waiting for Care at Phoenix VA Alone
The investigators found out that over 200 veterans had died while awaiting medical care at VA’s Phoenix hospital. One veteran, in particular, was waiting for a cardiology exam that experts believe could have saved his life.
The Phoenix VAHCS had already been on the news two years ago, when a scheme to alter patients’ waiting time records was uncovered. Following that scandal, attempts to reform the system have emerged as insufficient.
One of the allegations the OIG report was able to prove, refers to cancelled chiropractic consults. The document states,
“We analyzed 30 consults canceled from January through March 2015 and found that the staff responsible for scheduling, inappropriately canceled all 30 consults.”
In at least one case, staff members sent a letter to the patient informing them they should schedule the consult, and then sent a consult cancellation on the same day. According to regulations, staff should make three attempts to contact patients before cancelling a consult.
Veterans Routinely Waited Longer than a Month for Appointments
In one of its most shocking findings, the report concludes that,
“Nearly 4,800 patients had open consults for PVAHCS care for more than 30 days, and 10,000 Patients had open consults for community care exceeding 30 Days.”
Among the OIG’s recommendations, the most critical is ensuring offices are not understaffed and that managers who perpetuated unethical conduct are appropriately disciplined.
It is extremely frustrating to observe that so little has changed after two years of reform efforts. The Phoenix report furnishes proof that people have died because of the VA’s inefficiency and lack of ethics across its bureaucratic system.
Time and again, we have learned of managers who advised staff to alter records in order to make things “look better,” while very little has been done to truly address veterans’ complex health problems.
A timely doctor’s appointment can save lives, and in too many cases, the Phoenix VA health services have failed to provide it.
If you have failed to receive timely care from VA health services, our experienced attorneys are ready to assist you. Gang & Associates, a nationwide veteran’s disability law practice with over 15 years under its belt, is exclusively dedicated to helping veterans who have received unfair treatment from the military healthcare system. We pride ourselves in advocating veterans’ causes and ensuring they can live the healthy and fulfilling lives they deserve.