Email reveals VA workers were taught to ‘game the system,’ falsify records

Photo Credit: drexelmilitary.com
Photo Credit:
drexelmilitary.com

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs suffered another blow this week, when Fox News uncovered a “smoking gun” email that showed an employee deliberately trying to tamper with hospital records, to the detriment of ailing veterans.

In the June 2013 email, Telehealth coordinator David Newman instructed employees in Cheyenne, Wyo., and at a VA clinic in Fort Collins, Colo., how to change records to make it look like sick veterans were seeing their doctors within the two-week timeframe dictated by agency protocol.

“Yes, it is gaming the system,” Newman said in the email, according to Fox, “but you have to know the rules of the game you are playing, and when we exceed the 14-day measure, the front office gets very upset.”

The discovery of the email comes on the heels of similar revelations at the VA hospital in Phoenix, Ariz., where 40 veterans reportedly died after they were unable to receive timely medical care.

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The VA learned of the Arizona deaths through an internal investigation in December, but VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki did not initiate any disciplinary action or probe until Friday, when the news became public, Fox reported.

“This is faux outrage at its finest,” said U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “Today’s announcement from Secretary Shinseki that he has placed a Cheyenne VAMC employee on paid leave and asked the inspector general to investigate appears to be more of a knee-jerk reaction to tough media questions than anything else.”

VA spokesman Daniel Warvi told reporters earlier in the week that the agency would be conducting more training and weekly audits, saying the employees who doctored patient schedules were disciplined because internal investigations did not uncover any deliberate misconduct.

Still, the American Legion and congressional leaders are calling for Shinseki’s resignation. The secretary, though, has refused to step down and continues to enjoy President Obama’s full support.

Richard Berkow

Former political news reporter Richard Berkow lost his idealism in the Kennedy years, and his innocence in Vietnam, Lebanon, and the Soviet Union. He hasn’t mellowed since, and can be harassed at [email protected]

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