Beset by growing evidence of patient delays and cover-ups, embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned from President Barack Obama’s Cabinet Friday, taking the blame for what he decried as a “lack of integrity” in the sprawling health care system for the nation’s military veterans.
One of Shinseki’s last acts as secretary was to hand the president an internal accounting that underscored just how big the problems have become. It showed that in some cases, VA schedulers have been pressured to fake information for reports to make waiting times for medical appointments look more favorable.
The massive bureaucracy at the VA has come under intense scrutiny over the past month, following allegations that 40 patients died while awaiting care at a Phoenix hospital where employees kept a secret waiting list to cover up delays. On Wednesday, the VA inspector general reported that 1,700 veterans seeking treatment at the Phoenix facility were at risk of being “forgotten or lost.”
Problems at the VA date back well before Shinseki took the helm. The VA inspector general has issued 18 reports since 2005 that identified deficiencies in scheduling at both the national and local levels.
In his final remarks as secretary, Shinseki announced that the government would not give any VA performance bonuses this year and would use all authorities it has against those “who instigated or tolerated” the falsification of wait-time records.
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