According to Greg Zoroya’s article “Report: VA Scandal Probe Targets Potential Obstruction of Justice”, published 8-26-2014 in USA Today, “The Inspector General report focused largely on problems at the VA Hospital in Phoenix, the epicenter of the scandal. Reports of deaths of veterans awaiting care first surfaced there, but investigators said they have not found conclusive evidence linking the deaths to delayed care… Investigators found thousands of veterans in Phoenix hospital who were not being seen by doctors and whose names were kept on secret lists to hide them from official records that might reflect scheduling delays… legislators said hospital executives and senior clinical staff were aware that false scheduling practices were being used.”
Zoroya goes on to report that Sharon Helman, the hospital director (currently on administrative leave) along with two senior colleagues, falsified data in order to gain substantial raises in pay and bonuses, since rescinded by the VA.
Prior to releasing the report, VA officials prepared “…a full court public relations response”, ranging from granting selective media interviews with “…Top VA officials”, and culminating with remarks delivered by President Obama before the American Legion “…heralding steps to correct failings.”
In addition, the article quotes Sam Foote, a retired former VA (Phoenix) physician and “whistle blower” as saying that “…up to 63 veterans died while awaiting care at the hospital”. Yet, according to the report, there is no “….conclusive evidence linking the deaths to delayed care”. Also, the new VA Secretary, Robert McDonald, claimed “the number of veterans waiting for appointments has declined since May by 57%.” That may be due to a large number of veterans just not even trying, due to disgust or lack of faith in the VA.
According to an article “When a Veteran is Injured by the VA: The Federal Torts Claims Act, You Can Sue the VA For Medical Malpractice Through the Federal Torts Claims Act” published on the website Nolo.com, “You can file a lawsuit under the Federal Torts Claims Act (FTCA) when any employee of the VA acts negligently and causes you an injury…..Under the FTCA, a negligent act by any agent of the VA (for example, even a janitor leaving a wet floor on which you slip and get hurt) can be the basis of a medical malpractice lawsuit. This means that the FTCA covers many more negligent acts than Section 1151 benefits do… Unlike the VA rating system for service connected disabilities… money damages you could win are calculated based on your suffering and the economic loss that has resulted from your injury. And unlike disability compensation, which is paid monthly over a number of years, you receive a payment in one lump sum if you win an FTCA lawsuit.”
I wonder just how expensive it would be for the VA if they had to deal with FTCA lawsuits for the 63 veterans that suffered the injury of death, not to mention the thousands of veterans whose conditions were worsened by delayed care. Could that be the reason the official report claims investigators “have not found conclusive evidence linking the deaths to delayed care”? Maybe that is the real ‘bottom line’.