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Chronology of the VA Crisis


May 21, 2013
House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., sends a letter to the White House requesting President Barack Obama’s “direct involvement and leadership” in addressing “an alarming pattern of serious and significant patient care issues at Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers across the country.” The request came after the VA inspector general concluded management failures at the Atlanta VA contributed to the deaths of three patients.

September 2013
The deaths of six veterans at the Columbia, S.C., VA Medical Center are linked to delayed colorectal cancer screenings.

November 2013
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., asks VA for a report on how it is addressing patient care problems, understaffing, misread radiology reports and other issues at the Jackson, Miss., VA Medical Center. Six months later, the report
had not been furnished.

April 9, 2014
Miller reveals that dozens of VA patients in Phoenix may have died awaiting medical care. He also writes VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and requests that the agency preserve all records related to delayed medical appointments at the Phoenix VA, pending an investigation.

April 9, 2014
American Legion National Commander Dan Dellinger tells Congress that VA leadership must be held accountable for mistakes that lead to preventable deaths at VA medical facilities.

April 17, 2014
VA’s Office of General Counsel tells Phoenix VA to preserve all  documentation related to alleged delayed appointments.

April 18, 2014
In separate meetings with Obama and Shinseki, Dellinger expresses concern about the claims backlog, preventable deaths, VA transparency and other issues.

April 23, 2014
CNN reports that as many as 40 veterans died waiting for care at the Phoenix VA Medical Center. In addition, Sam Foote, a recently retired VA physician, claims the facility kept a secret waiting list to hide the fact that veterans waited months to see their physicians.

May 1, 2014
Shinseki places Phoenix VA Director Sharon Hellman and two other officials on administrative leave pending an inspector general’s inquiry.

May 2, 2014
Katherine Mitchell, a physician at the Phoenix VA, comes forward after she and a co-worker hide patient records because they worry that VA executives will destroy the information about long wait times for medical care.

May 5, 2014
Dellinger calls for the resignations of Shinseki, Undersecretary of Health Robert Petzel and Undersecretary of Benefits Allison Hickey, citing poor oversight
and failed leadership.

May 6, 2014
Shinseki tells The Wall Street Journal he won’t resign but pledges that his department will work to improve communication and collaboration with VSOs.

May 13, 2014
Miller writes to Obama requesting that he appoint a bipartisan VA medical acccess commission, similar to the 2007 Dole-Shalala Commission that made recommendations to better care for America’s wounded warriors.

May 15, 2014
Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., conducts a hearing in Washington to learn from Shinseki and Petzel the steps they are taking to correct the problems. Dellinger testifies for The American Legion.

May 29, 2014
The VA inspector general reports that 1,700 veterans were left off the official waiting list to receive care at the Phoenix VA.

May 30, 2014
Shinseki resigns as VA secretary. Obama appoints Sloan Gibson interim secretary.

 

Charles Bernal

July 8, 2014 - 12:36am

When I was out of the Navy in 1984 after completing 4 years of honorable service, I went to the VA hospital in Fresno CA for a bad flu bug I had. I was told I would see a doctor in 8 months, I turned around and walked out saying they were a joke. Receiving quick same day service at a public clinic. You have to wonder why there are so many homeless veterans from various conflicts, there has been little or no confidence in a system where employees work to get a set check every few weeks. If the person does not like their job, why be there, find something better. Why hang around where you don't feel you belong, especially in the medical field. These men and women have gone into harms way whereas VA employees are here in the U.S. safe and sound. And if your a veteran of a war era then you are probably twice as guilty of letting your fellow veterans pass on due to the lack of prompt professional medical care. Now since I answered the call again after 911 attacks I am considered a wounded warrior due to my combat experiences in Afghanistan with the Army now. I had no confidence in the patient advocate here for I would see him eating lunch with some of the same people in the hospital I wanted to complain about. I gave up on complaining about unprofessional service for their was a conflict of interest happening in front of not just me but other veterans trying to get help for their service connected injuries and psych. issues. I would say to myself, "if God is watching their has to be justice one day". Now let's focus on cleaning house in the VA of those whose bad attitudes were passed down from one generation to another.

Gary Anderson

July 7, 2014 - 11:08pm

So the VA is a mess!...
What is new about that?

My great grandfather spent 1 1/2 years in a military hospital and had to fight for 25 years to get his civil war disability.

My fathers brother was one of those souls who marched on Washington, DC for his WWI pension.

I have only been working for 16 years for my correct pension. I am still waiting

Don Braswell

July 7, 2014 - 8:34pm

First I hurt my back several times working the flightline on B-52's, KC-135's and in Vietnam on C-123K's during a rocket and mortar attack. The VA said it wasn't bad enough for a disability rating. They should have to live with the painful and weak back muscles. Then they said I was 10% disabled and they would reevaluate me every five years, that was 1990. I haven't heard from the VA since. From what I have read that's most likely a good thing.

Sean

July 3, 2014 - 11:39am

Congress: Stop underfunding the VA!!!!!!!! Veterans are becoming casualties to Congress' war against the Executive Branch. If you can't afford to take care of those that sacrifice their health for their countries, then don't start wars. VA funding has simply not kept up with the demand for services, and we have known this for years. Now you have Congressmen such as Jeff Sessions claiming that VA care is an "Entitlement" that we just can't afford. Let this be a wake up call Veterans, we are next on their chopping block unless we get active!!!!

James W. (Jim) DU Vall

July 1, 2014 - 2:28pm

Do we really need the V.A.? If all and I stress the word (ALL) have Military ID as former service personnel (including Officers, Enlisted, Drafted, who served under honorable conditions we should be able to go to any hospital, clinic or ride public transportation
generally funded by Uncle Sam) for free by showing the card. Jim D.

William Melton

July 7, 2014 - 5:13pm

that will never happen. like Viet Nan once they have used u the have no use for u. remember the RIFT in the70's same now . this man in the white house has no clue as to what is going on . he only finds out what is happening from the news.

Dennis Didier

July 2, 2014 - 8:13am

The VA is uniquely qualified to help veterans. Many of the health problems faced by veterans are virtually nonexistent in the general public. Because the military life style is often arduous, veterans often suffer from several serious health issues simultaneously that most civilian facilities aren't capable of dealing with. I would prefer to keep the VA health system, but improve the administration and remove the unions and bonuses.

Kay

July 1, 2014 - 3:46pm

Yes we really do need the VA. Do you get care at the VA? Are you Veteran? Have you been to VA hospital or clinic? Answer those questions and then I reply to your comments.

Gregory Balint (USAF Ret. E-7)

July 1, 2014 - 2:15pm

It breaks my heart that our nation is oh so willing to send us off to battle yet gives so little to understanding the cost and dedication required for those returning. I would say that if we (Americans)were to institute the draft and require all able men and women to serve many of our VA issues would not be issues. However since we all did volunteer and we only amount to less than 1% of total population what can we Vets expect? Also lets take a look at the members of congress how many of those have served? Oh I guess the average every day citizen feels somewhat patriotic by providing a sale for the returning veterans, or sponsoring a golf tournament in support of a wounded warrior program but come on if this is how a grateful nation what's to repay those of us who gave I would say keep it as you really do not understand why we went. It takes dollars to run a business and the VA is a business, the business of taking care of those who served! Congress stop bickering and fix the VA. Many ways to get this done Government loans toward tuitions for those getting Dr. degrees two years serving in VA hospital who knows they may find it rewarding and make it a career. Enough of the stories of who is not being treated or who as died due to lack of care one report should have been enough, Again Congress do your job!

James W. (Jim) Du Vall

July 1, 2014 - 2:14pm

We have just completed one year of volunteer service (unpaid, personal time) at the local V.A. Clinic. This as part of a research work in progress on the V.A.

While you have many excellent V.A. employees who are former military individuals there are many who believe they are still Parris Island DI's of the 1940's and 1950's. These individual appear to fail to understand the majority clients of the V.A. are civilians. I have personally been witness to employees and V.A. clients spoken to as garbage. You do not turn out the lights of "Big Mouth" or "Lard Butt" because you are on Federal Property. In addition there are other problems that reveal as terraced caste system of haves and have not's.
But the greatest problem appears to reveal the outside political nature of the broken system. So remember who you voted for and require that all future Directors of the V.A. be retired Military Leaders and pro common man in philosophy. If you volunteered put you life on the line for your country you deserve better than being crapped on. Jim D.

Mark S. Walton

July 1, 2014 - 12:30pm

We should not be hiring student Doctor's to finish their internships at the VA. We should not hire doctors that are sub-standard and cannot make it on the outside. We should not be hiring from other countries when we have sharp American Medical students deserving of an internship here. It is a large system, and we have many talented individuals they are overlooked that could be making a difference. I wrote a motivation statement of the week and will include it here as my ending...I have truly witnessed many times when individuals are quick to judge and pursue the path of negativity by trying to get someone in trouble; and make themselves look good, when it is easier to approach the problem with kindness and thought, instead of anger. Kindness, thought, conversations, and understanding, produces positive outcomes, with learning taking place and understanding other individuals perspectives and opinions!! These are all important to all of us, not just one sided. While serving in the US Navy and retiring, I always noticed a place on our evaluations, which indicated how many times we wrote an individual up. Most would think if you had a higher number you did great, but sadly to some, the opposite is true. The lower the number the better YOU were doing your job and listening to people. Again, food for thought…Stand up and be a leader don't hide behind someone's failure, because they are the ones that win; failure is success in disguise...

Randy La Motte

July 1, 2014 - 11:59am

I am a 100% Disabled Veteran (rated at 140%) and am scared to use the VA. I instead pay out of my pocket for Tricare Prime so that I have a fighting chance at decent healthcare, as I live in Arizona. All the talk about Phoenix, but I remember just a few years back that Tucson was the 8th worst rated VA Hospital itself. As Arizona is a retirement spot, there are a ton of elderly veterans who live here and we feel anger and betrayal over all this. If the VA Bosses really care and want to find out what's broke and how to fix it, why not do what the other CEO's do of major corporations? Why doesn't the head of the VA go on "Under Cover Boss" and nationally televise it? If you have nothing to hide and the Veterans interest at heart, I challenge you to do so Mr. Gibson.

James Buckley

July 2, 2014 - 8:16am

We Veterans should be making the phones of every single Local, State and Federal Politician within our should be ringing off the hook, and continue to ring of the hook until we start seeing real change towards how the VA and this country takes care of its Veterans.

Ben Walker

July 1, 2014 - 11:59am

This and all of the comments are just another example of the failure to perform the job correctly. The question that keeps nagging at me is how does the VA staff that were prior military sit idly by and not take responsibility for their jobs and do them correctly. I do not buy any response that they did not know or were not properly trained. In the military you were taught to overcome obstacles, weaknesses in your ability to perform the job in an outstanding manner. This is not only for the performance at medical facilities but any and all positions that are at the VA. Including Claims Adjusters, and I use the word Adjuster loosely. I have put documentary evidence from my military medical record (highlighted) and doctors reports, evaluations, tests, readings and detailed outline referencing medical books in front of them and they arbitrarily deny the claims so that they do not have a filed claim longer than the allotted time. If anyone is wondering why it takes so long to go through the appeals for their claims, this is why; failure to do the job correctly the first time. All for bonuses? Take pride in your jobs and do them right!!!

Earl Litz

July 1, 2014 - 9:14am

Vietnam Vet being treated for Agent Orange, Type II, PTSD. Last summer, I started putting weight on for no reason or change in diet and when it hit twenty pounds, they told me to watch my diet....then another twenty pounds a couple weeks later....same response...watch your diet. No tests ever done....two months later, the weight gain topped a little over one hundred pounds. FINALLY, they send my for tests....congestive heart failure. Extremely high blood pressure, glucose. Turns out my meds were having problems when being taken together. Complete change of meds were made. All of a sudden, I lost the hundred pounds in a few months, blood pressure stablized along with glucose readings. I came very close to death before they even sent me for tests! I go to a small outpatient clinic and my doctor has close to 1100 patients. Seems that they don't pay attention to patients when they call and suspect that something is wrong. Time to outsource treatment for vets.....the VA is a failure.

Marcos

July 1, 2014 - 5:27pm

Earl,
I am glad you are stabilized, this was a close call and I am sure this happens more than we all think. I have not received medical care in the VA hospital because the day I showed up they told me to use the tricare system if I had access. I am 50% disabled USAF firefighter and the back surgery they performed on me did not work because they did not fuse my spine when they removed 2 of my discs. Anyway, I hope Gibson can fix the problems, we need better service before we die.

Mark S. Walton

July 1, 2014 - 12:11pm

Very good statement Mr. Earl Litz. I have had a similar problem but mine has not been taken care of...Because of my meds, I gained weight about the same as you 100 Lbs. and it has not come off...now I have diabetes and an A1C of 7.5 and a Doctor yelling at me to lose weight. Oh well right?

Earl Litz

July 1, 2014 - 12:20pm

What meds are you on? We can compare and hopefully get you on the right ones.

AnnaParaskevi

July 1, 2014 - 11:37am

Glad you are still with us, Earl!
Agreed. The VA needs to imitate successful non-governmental medical practices, and not try to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. The government is AWFUL at outsourcing, and everything costs MUCH more than it should. Employ more doctors, broaden the TYPE of medical care available to include naturopaths, acupuncturists, Bowen workers, etc. The variety could allow to free up doctors such as would have been the ones to have seen you.

Conrad Creitz

July 1, 2014 - 1:48am

I have been waiting since 2010 for the Kansas City VAMC to repair a "parastomal hernia" that was caused by S. Stark refusing to use a mesh when he did the original surgery. I refuse to call Stark a Doctor because of the poor job he did on my colostomy and to call him a butcher would be an insult to the Meat Cutters Union.

Kevin Kintzi

July 1, 2014 - 1:33am

Folks, Please understand that the waste majority of VAMC employees do their very best to ensure we get the care we have earned and in a timely fashion. I have been using the Mpls VAMC since November of 1998 and first went their when a chiropractor had paralyzed me from the waist down, had three back operations but they got me walking once again. Then I had cut my foot and went to the Urgent Care where they took an X ray and told me to go to the Podiatry Clinic for further care. Went to the Clinic two or three times a week for 18 months and it never healed up. Finally went to an outside the VA Doctor at my expense and he found a bone infection within 5 minutes which was verified with an X ray and also a bone scan...needless to say after spending 9 of the next 12 months as an inpatient they finally had to amputate my leg below the knee. Applied for service connected benefits and been denied and finally the Court of Veterans Appeals denied my due to my missing phony X ray appointments which they placed into my records. This is a felonious criminal offense and I would assume if others would come forward we could make the medical side issues look like only a little glitch.
To blame this on Secretary Shinseki it totally wrong...he had to rely on the VAMC Director's report that they submitted to him and these people he didn't have the authority to remove either at the time.

LP Goodwin

July 1, 2014 - 4:56am

You are right Kevin. The vast majority of VA workers and medical personnel do work hard, and care deeply about their agency mission. My VA experience has been excellent. But I know & understand the problems of many Vets who have been on the outside looking in. I have spent time with them while hospitalized at GLAMC, so I know many stories & know first-hand how difficult it can be to reach VA via telephone. I have been writing Senators, Congress members, and VA administrators about Vets' access problems for well over a year. Not once have I received a response.
I believe you are wrong Kevin in saying Secretary Shinseki "had to rely on the VAMC Director's reports." He was their boss, and the man responsible for the performance of the entire VA. He, and his office should have been calling and visiting Veterans at every opportunity in order to find out what was actually happening and what wasn't. The boss NEVER knows if he is not in contact with the customers. I knew, and all I had to do in order to find out was to ask.
I'm pretty upset with VSO's as well, since they all have reps at most VA medical centers, who could have easily asked the same questions and did not. We also find some of them defending VA's procedures and wait times. What in hell's name are they on site for?

Norm Staley

June 30, 2014 - 11:09pm

These stories make me fill like forming an Military of our own to march on Washington and throw them all out! I too have a story about Phoenix. It was two and 1/2 years waiting on them to settle my claim, I finally gave in to get 10% on one of four. I am 75 years old and can't take it anymore.

naught moses

June 30, 2014 - 10:57pm

Not saying the new guy can't make a difference, but unless he's allowed to fire at least 5,000 people and run the remainder through something akin to mid-century, Red Chinese thought reform, he's not going to make a dent. The VHS cult-ure is passive-aggressive here and burned out there. People have tried "culture change" and "bad apple" dumping at the VHS before, but the procedures required to get rid of GS employees are so arduous that few get axed. Sophisticated HR types have seen this over and over again. The better move is to put the VHS on the auction block and sell it off region by region to private operators, put veterans on a single-payer health insurance plan on an improved Medicare model, and allow veterans to select their care providers the same way most people do. (I know, but the current sit for them is worse than Medicare.) BTW, the VHS's programs for PTSD would be a joke if they weren't so archaic and inadequate. The state of the art for PTSD treatment is at least 20 years ahead of what the VHS provides right now.

S. Christen, CDR/USN/RET

July 1, 2014 - 3:15am

I am a combat veteran from Vietnam, currently on disability for multiple diagnoses and injuries from that war. After seven years of flying Navy jets I left the service, attended medical school, and became a surgeon. I trained in both Navy and, for six years off and on, in V A hospitals. The contrasting accountability, incentive, expertise, and attitude between military and V A hospitals is like the difference between night and day. I would NEVER go to the VA hospital system for my own health care!! Despite some good people, the system is entirely corrupt ad runs on paperwork, not patient care. I agree with the above comments, and decided 40 years ago, that an all inclusive Medicare/Medicaid card, with prescription benefits, dental, hearing, and eye care, would serve veterans far better. The anachronistic V A health care system only exists today for political reasons, and we have both the executive and legislative branches to blame!

No Pain Meds for Almost 2 years

June 30, 2014 - 10:19pm

I have been in horrible back pain for over 2 years and the VA doctor (I use the term 'doctor' loosely) will not prescribe any pain meds for me. It is absolutely cruel to be treated in such a barbaric and uncaring fashion but this is all too typical of VA.
It is the Indianapolis VAMC.

I want to quit working at the VA

June 30, 2014 - 9:34pm

What they don't get is, it's not just appointment wait times that determine the bonuses. There are other, reasons == The Stop Light Report for reporting NON-VA care claims, etc; the REVENUE GOAL -- all having to do with accounts payable, accounts receivable & billing. These may not be DIRECTLY affecting life or death but, it includes DESTROYED CREDIT RATINGS. For example, a medical bill from a NON-VA provider that doesn't get paid, that should for a veteran. It goes on & on. How about UNAUTHORIZED OR MILL BILL EMERGENCY CLAIMS, where there is no prior authorization for NON-VA Care. We're being told to IGNORE claim status from NON-VA providers to work on the pre authorized care (for example, knee-replacement surgery, etc non-emergent care).

Richard Anderson OS1 Ret

June 30, 2014 - 8:47pm

they need to go to more then just phoenix, like Kingman, and Prescott, my va Dr. got out of the va system last yr, a new Dr. came from Vegas to replace him, without even knowing me, he stopped all my meds, I had been on morphine for like 10 or 11 yrs for my back, legg , and other pains , was taking quite a bit a day , he stopped me cold turkey, I almost died twice, I have tried to make appointments to see my va Dr, from aug to dec 2013 received none no phone calls , nothing so I have gone a whole yr without meds to help me, im in so much pain don;t know what to do anymore

Jason Sturgeon

June 30, 2014 - 5:25pm

So it takes a reported 40 deaths, 1700 more Veterans on the secret stand-by list at one facility alone and a year to begin to see any movement to change the culture of the VA leadership? The rate of change and level of effort to correct these issues is alarmingly slow and low. Forget about the evening news sound bites and make change happen! Make it okay for the good people in the VA system to do the right thing. The head (Shinseki) has been dismissed now continue the work and BE RID OF THE WEAK LEADERSHIP WITHIN THE WALLS OF THE VA!!!

WOODY DUNCAN

June 30, 2014 - 4:40pm

WHAT CAN YOU ABOUT DR. NOT DOING THERE JOB HAVE BEN GOING TO DR. AT VA IN KNOXVILLE TENNESSEE GET APPOINTMENTS NO PROUBLEM BUT DR.DONT DO ANYTHING BUT LOOK AT MEDS AND MAKE REFILLS.

Deb Ridder

June 30, 2014 - 3:44pm

Thank-you for providing this info! Just recently my husband was given an appt. at the Hines VA center in Maywood, Il. Fri. 6/27 for 11:30am to be seen by vascular about an IVC G2 filter than has traveled in his vein toward his heart. Last Spring they were going to attempt to remove it when the retrieval device was compromised and the Dr. was searching to get another one, but there was none locally available. Then we went down again for the procedure but they were booked and he would have been taken at the end of the day. This is not a procedure that they do frequently and can be life threatening. We wanted to speak with the dr. and had some questions but there was no time because they were running late on a surgery. The visit for the 27th was to consult again to remove the filter. The 11:30 appt. (we arrived at 11:10) turned into no appt. The desk person told us that the resident who was suppose to see us had not arrived and she didn't even know when they were coming. That was at 12:25. We then went down to take care of lab work which got all messed up also -they lost the order for it and lost the refill for drugs. By the time that was straightened out my husband who is on morphene all day (poly trauma vet) was so tired and sore that we headed for home which is an hr. and a half drive in normal traffic one way. I am sure you have heard plenty of these stories and I want you to know that I am so very grateful that someon is looking into how things operate with the VA medical system. Now we are going to contact the patient advocate again to see when he can be seen by someone.

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