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VA offers no answers on Phoenix allegations

VA offers no answers on Phoenix allegations

American Legion officials met with a top Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) official in Washington on April 24 to address allegations made against the VA medical center in Phoenix, and how the department is responding to them.

Specifically, CNN reported April 23 that the Phoenix facility has been keeping a secret list of patients long-overdue for medical exams, which has been linked to at least 40 preventable deaths at the facility. The report also said the list was kept secret to conceal appointment delays.

Thomas G. Lynch, M.D., VA’s assistant deputy under secretary for health for clinical operations, responded to questions posed by Peter Gaytan, the Legion’s executive director; Jacob Gadd, the Legion’s deputy director for health; and other attendees.

Lynch offered no useful answers. When asked about the Phoenix facility’s secret list, he said it was created because some VA employees didn’t use electronic wait-list software correctly.

“Answers like that don’t increase our confidence that VA understands the terrible problems in Phoenix,” said Daniel M. Dellinger, the Legion’s national commander. “The fact that this secret list was maintained for quite some time, and that VA’s Central Office knew nothing about it, is bad enough. But for Dr. Lynch to mask it as some kind of human error with software is inexcusable.”

On April 24, the Washington Free Beacon reported that the Phoenix facility’s director, Sharon Helman, received a $9,345 bonus last year, in addition to her base salary of $169,000.

When Helman’s name came up at the meeting, it was explained that she had only been at her job for 18 months and, since her arrival, the current average wait-time for appointments at the VA facility had reportedly fallen to 55 days – down from more than 100 days, but still far from VA’s goal of 10-14 days.

“Again, VA dodged the question,” Dellinger said. “Dr. Lynch needed to tell us why a VA administrator deserves any kind of bonus – or a job, for that matter – when she is the person who authorized the use of a secret list that is linked to the deaths of at least 40 patients.”

According to internal emails obtained by CNN, Helman was aware of the secret list and even defended its use.

Preventable deaths at the Phoenix VA facility and its secret list have caught the attention of Capitol Hill. Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake have asked the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs to conduct a hearing on allegations of patient neglect at the Phoenix medical center.

The committee’s chair, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., responded on April 24, announcing that a hearing will be held after VA’s Office of Inspector General completes its own independent investigation, which is under way.

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CNCMike

May 15, 2014 - 1:31am

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., responded on April 24, announcing that a hearing will be held after VA’s Office of Inspector General completes its own independent investigation, which is under way. independent investigation. Fair for who. This man has made this a political issue. It is the way that he chose to go.

aeh4543

May 4, 2014 - 12:23am

I am so thankful that VAPAHCS Palo Alto is nothing like this. Staff members in the various departments have helped me when civilian providers didn't know their heads from their fourth point of contact or wouldn't help me because of some invisible insurance requirement. I don't think the whole system has bad apples like in Phoenix and elsewhere, but we do need to be sure that everyone is held accountable - all of the time.

Billy Lynn

May 8, 2014 - 7:33pm

Try getting surgery at the VA Medical Center Hospital in Big Springs, Texas and then tell me it is just a local problem or the problems at walter reed and elsewhere.

Deward Blevins

May 1, 2014 - 8:53pm

This story is not sad, it is criminal. The people involved are guilty of conspiracy to defraud for every name on the list and are guilty of negligent homicide for the people who died.

mach2

May 8, 2014 - 10:42pm

I agree with Deward, aside from being tearfully sad it's felony homicide. This matter involves some serious felonies with negligent homicide at the top of the list. I also agree with Cowboy and others that this investigation needs to start at the top, the white house and work down. It's very clear in this situation why officials under the VA hierarchy like Lynch and Helman draw such ridiculous salaries and bonuses in charge of programs established to care and provide for those who stepped up to fight the forces threatening this country. Its because of the cost amount. It's allot cheaper to pay such salaries to a few greedy, heartless henchmen whom if caught, would be difficult to prove any upward connection. I've clearly experienced this same denial for assistance with another similar government organization as with my battle for the VA to reinstate my 100% full disability and unemployable status they coldly took from me after 2 yrs resulting from a combat related, life threatening disability. The Social Security Admin who also twice turned down my claim for disability without even reviewing my claim. Same situation of withholding funds from those who certifiably deserve them. I believe that unwritten command comes f from the white house. After obtaining legal council who arranged for a qualified medical adjutant on the SSA's Adjutant Review Board, (SSARB) to review my file the results were amazingly quick. Their report on each of the medical findings of my disabilities and their disbelief of the SSA's findings that stated I was employable, was an embarrassment to the SSA. After my request for a formal review the SSA sent me correspondence describing the lengthy wait, just to receive the verdict or begin receiving financial support, 18 months to 2 yrs. I received a copy of the Adjutant's report of findings 1 1/2 months after it was submitted and the SSA's approval of my claim along with my first payment for back pay a week later. I mention this because after the second denial of my claim I attached a copy of this report to my VA claims extension supporting my reasons and submitted it over a year ago. After receiving a copy of my extension from the VA I noticed several pages of my attachment missing. I contacted an advocate who helped me submit a request to include the missing pages of the attachment. To date I still have not received any word from them that they received it or a date for adjudication. Folks, like the others have stated before my input, this is way beyond sad. With the statements and evidence that continues to be documented, it's a criminal matter. A tip to those who are already involved in the cover up and those who expect to be, don't be foolish and offer your head to the chopping block. Step up to the plate and tell the truth. Expose these greedy high paid criminals for justice and the families of deceased. My heart and prayers go out to all the families of vets who lost their lives to the alleged atrocities being investigated.

cowboyup

April 30, 2014 - 2:31pm

Well I did go to a Private Hospital in Tucson Az yesterday. Now I'm scheduled to see a Surgon who specializes on what this, other than what the VA would tell me 2 years ago. I'm so glad my wife/caregiver had me go to a private hospital. I won't nor will I discuss what was found. However, it's very sad knowing that Honorable Veterans are dying while waiting for someone in the VA to at least take a moment to call Veterans who hadn't been seen in over six months to a year. Were treated like cattle and when we voice concerns we then become branded and this is what happened and is happening to me. God Bless all Veterans who gave their all in our Government needed us. Its also sad when they send us into harms way they will never consider writing out the check to those who are about to die every day waiting for an appointment or even our fair ratings. Cowboy Up Folks, I have enough facts and information which will very soon cause this Nation to wonder why anyone would want to protect this country knowing whats in store for them upon returning back to a "Free America?" Yep, it's true, Veterans do pay the price!! Its called death while waiting.

Stephen Costello

April 30, 2014 - 11:59am

THE VA IS BROKEN!! I have so many stories of mistreatment from OVERDOSE causing near death, to having to CRAWL out of the emergency services and be taken to UMC ALL ON MY OWN DIME!! I am 100% service connected!!! These people sent me to a podiatrist with a severely broken talus instead of orthopedic surgeon, After not being able to walk unassisted FOR A YEAR, I went to a private Ortho, and was WALKING a week later! DON"T GO TO THE PATIENT ADVOCATE!!!! They work directly for the Hospital director. It is nothing more than a warning to the director to CYA. Been there and done that!!! MANY MANY MANY more stories of mistreatment and ABUSE!!! I'm so parnoid I CANNOT EVEN GET CLOSE TO ANY VA WITHOUT BREAKING INTO A COLD SWEAT!!! Treatment? HAHA

Reginald Smith

April 29, 2014 - 4:39pm

I work for the VA in DC and they are entirely disconnected with the field both in oversite and in what their perceptions are of these tragic events and what is needed to fix them. VBA and BVA both work on a widget system versus having a 100% accuracy rate. Processing does not mean processing because in a huge percentage of cases, claims are in error or are returned for instance by the BVA to the regional office. It is like a never ending perpetual error machine. Their is certainly a culture of fear within the VA at so many locations including central office.

cowboyup

April 29, 2014 - 6:38pm

VA in DC is responsible . That's a cheap wash out excuse. i have several recorded conversations and Phoenix Tells me they have all my data they requested. 3 Weeks later. I cal the same guy and now he's in total denial and has NO DATA and blames the system or tells me he didn't say that. Here's the kicker . I have both.Conversations recorded and I will be sharing with Hanity and Megyn in a timely manner of course. This is 5 years of recorded meetings ect. Nation gonna be floored on this one. I have given plVA plenty of time to resolve. Now its time more.VA Scandals to be released

cowboyup

April 29, 2014 - 6:37pm

VA in DC is responsible . That's a cheap wash out excuse. i have several recorded conversations and Phoenix Tells me they have all my data they requested. 3 Weeks later. I cal the same guy and now he's in total denial and has NO DATA and blames the system or tells me he didn't say that. Here's the kicker . I have both.Conversations recorded and I will be sharing with Hanity and Megyn in a timely manner of course. This is 5 years of recorded meetings ect. Nation gonna be floored on this one. I have given plVA plenty of time to resolve. Now its time more.VA Scandals to be released

cowboyup

April 28, 2014 - 6:39pm

I have been waiting for an appointment now for One and a Half years. I have a growth inside my stomach. Tucson VA keeps delaying my care for this. This morning I was in so much pain in that area I was wishing someone just put me out of my misery. I called the VA in Tucson AZ and "AGAIN" told me they would call me right back. Today is April 28th 2014 it's now been over six hours since VA said they would "Call Me Right Back" for the 100th time. We tried going to another Doctor but they need a referral from the VA. What the heck? Someone Please Help. I don't want to die like this.

.Seen enough

April 29, 2014 - 2:07pm

Your probably on their secret list. Call a constituent, some of these ignorant people think you have to go to emergency room a number of times before its taken care of. Find out who standing in your way to be seen by gastro, a nurse or dr. And report them to patient advocate, which they don't always want to do. Because it has a system that tracks complaints. Also if any good has been accomplished. Some of Drs. and employees have turned all this into a battle against veterans. Bring the battle to them. They have found a place where their miscreant personalities will be accepted by others with same character issues. If anyone should be removed by their system. Watch out for the next one. Some Drs. go their make lots of friends and go into private practice in area and pick up patients that work in Hospital. They have good insurance.

cowboyup

April 29, 2014 - 3:25pm

Thank You Seen Enough.....It's really odd. This morning I got a call from the VA in Tucson from my clinic. This nurse must be new. It sounded like she was reading a script and faint whispers in the background. Pissed me off, no compassion what so ever. I felt like a number not a Veteran. Then another Nurse called me and stated that the Administrator said to get me in right away. Now here is the odd and weird/suspicious behavior. Why would the VA administrator be so concerned when I never called him. Next, I received a call from the Primary Chief Doctor over that clinic. I explained to her that why would a Doctor tell me that the bigger the Hernia the better when other professional doctors outside the VA stated yesterday that now I'm at a very higher risk of "Septic Shock" if this doesnt get treated ASAP. Here is another odd thing. In my appointment's past tense. It shows I went to two appoinments in urology and GI clinic which never even happened. I'm now looking into the T.O.R.T. ACT. This administration in Tucson and Phoenix Regional Offices for ratings must be working together. Heck Ive been on a CPAP since 08 and still can't reachout to regional. Who i have caught, with proof in so many lies. 90% service connected and they refuse to give me my 100% on service connected Apnea. Also Ive been married for 2 years now and still being paid VA disability as a Single Person and Phoenix has had all they needed now for almost one year. Yet I reckon my main concern here is, I could have died do to the VA ignoring my issue now for almost 2 years. Thank God for Tricare I guess. I really liked this VA too.

Old Grunt

April 28, 2014 - 12:20pm

Come on, Girl, did you really expect ANY-ONE to be held accountable for this?? It's no big deal only 40 or so Vet's died, after all there's a whole lot more of the old sick fart's out there!! They cost money to treat, we need to use those funds for other things (like new break rooms for the staff/ to redecorate the bosses office) Don't know why any-one should be upset???

cowboyup

April 28, 2014 - 6:47pm

Old Grunt, Your so right. I feel HQ in D.C. needs to be investigated as well. Looks like their involved with that "SECRET" too. It had to only because their the ones at the wheel and advising/guiding towards a better way of saving money and taking lives of Veterans.

mach2

May 8, 2014 - 11:03pm

Your exactly rite on that Cowboyup. However, I believe even if somebody with a pair of stones attempts to investigate DC they may be in for atrocities of their own. Cover ups at that level are thick as cement as we all know from past history. Again, I clearly see from past chain of events that this all started up there.

mach2

May 8, 2014 - 10:57pm

Your exactly rite on that Cowboyup. However, I believe even if somebody with a pair of stones attempts to investigate DC they may be in for atrocities of their own. Cover ups at that level are thick as cement as we all know from past history. Again, I clearly see from past chain of events that this all started up there.

sailorgirl

April 27, 2014 - 2:27pm

And Washington will have meetings and more meetings, and secret talks and how many more Veterans will die before all is said and done? First step is start overhauling the system that allowed this to happen in the first place. Then you can continue having your meetings,hearings, or whatever, about what happened in Phoenix!!!!

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