ANALYSIS: VA Department Responsible for Veteran Deaths

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Reports of negligence and delays by the Department of Veteran Affairs that have led to numerous patient deaths show that poor healthcare treatment is a common problem across the US, experts told RIA Novosti Friday.

WASHINGTON, April 25 (RIA Novosti), Lyudmila Chernova – Reports of negligence and delays by the Department of Veteran Affairs that have led to numerous patient deaths show that poor healthcare treatment is a common problem across the US, experts told RIA Novosti Friday.

“As disappointing as it is for me to say, I am not surprised. This problem has been continual, and there are many other cases just like this out there,” said Jessie Jane Duff, a retired Gunnery Sergeant in the US Marine Corps, adding that while over 300,000 employees within the VA are hardworking and caring people, its 400 senior executives were responsible for the mismanagement.

“We’ve seen a history of bureaucracy, cover-ups and rewarding the executives within the VA with bonuses. It’s such a horrific situation that the secretary of VA is not holding any of these executives accountable,” said Duff.

Duff noted that in 2012 all of the upper management save a single individual received a satisfactory performance rating, despite extensive backlogs in veteran benefits.

“They were shoving through, losing records, the system was not even automated, they were paper files for years. The executives are not held accountable for what they are doing,” she said.

Glenn Cohen, a health policy and bioethics expert at Harvard Law School, stressed the Veterans Administration has had a serious history of delays in many areas and one of the key promises of the new secretary has been to work through the backlog.

“This story with the Phoenix VA emphasizes that the true magnitude of the problem may be hidden from officials in Washington,” Cohen told RIA Novosti Thursday. “Given the large scope of the US administrative state, leading officials in Washington can never fully monitor or control what is going on in local offices.”

According to a CNN report Thursday, 40 veterans died waiting for doctor’s appointments in a VA hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. Many of them were placed on a secret waiting list, which differed from another list shared with Washington officials.

The Los Angeles VA medical center also produced headlines just two weeks ago when recordings of an employee asking his supervisor what to do with the claims of veterans trying to get appointments were made public. In that case, the VA executive advised deleting them. Experts told RIA Novosti of at least five more deaths that can be attributed to mismanagement at the Dorn Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina.

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