VA Scandal: This Is What Death Panels Look Like
By Matthew Vadum
The Veterans Administration hospital scandal that has claimed the lives of at least 40 U.S. military veterans continues to expand, adding to the image of a president who neither knows nor cares what happens to those who shed their blood on the battlefield for their fellow Americans.
With a little under six months before the crucial midterm elections, it is a helpful reminder to voters of the horrors that are not glitches, but essential features, of government-provided health care. The problems at the VA are omens, sneak previews of what the delivery of all health care in America will look like under Obamacare, and so it is fortuitous that the scandal should surface now.
President Obama is predictably, perfunctorily, outraged about these bad things that have been happening in the government he controls. He is shocked and promises to get to the bottom of the issue and do better in the future. It is tedious stuff.
The happenings at the VA are also more evidence, Obama critics say, that the president despises the military. Obama has been moving to reduce soldier pay and benefits and hollow out the military to mid-century staff levels. He has also been going on a human resources rampage, firing flag officers at a rate that alarms military observers. And like any good leftist, Obama believes that the only good American soldier is one who is functioning as a social worker, not a war-fighter.
Meanwhile, Obama VA officials have been working overtime covering up the various waiting list atrocities that have been popping up cross the country.
A whistleblower who exposed the waiting list scandal in Fort Collins, Colorado, says she was suspended after she refused to falsify records.
Lisa Lee, who was employed at that clinic, said she was placed on two weeks of unpaid leave for not following a directive that involved “cooking the books” on scheduling medical appointments to create the false impression that appointments were made closer to the time veterans requested.
“Why are they throwing me under the bus when I’m trying to say what the problem is?”
At least 40 U.S. veterans have died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix, Ariz., Veterans Affairs Health Care system, CNN reported April 30. Many of the dead had been put on a secret waiting list.
That list was reportedly part of an elaborate scheme designed by Veterans Administration officials who were attempting to conceal the fact that between 1,400 and 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a physician.
The VA requires its hospitals to provide care to patients in a timely manner, usually within 14 to 30 days, according to Dr. Sam Foote who just retired after working at the Phoenix facility for 24 years. He said officials destroyed evidence to cover up the existence of the bogus waiting list.
VA officials “wouldn’t take you off that secret list until you had an appointment time that was less than 14 days so it would give the appearance that they were improving greatly the waiting times, when in fact they were not,” Foote said.
Foote said the waiting times in Phoenix that were reported to VA headquarters in Washington were make-believe. “So then when they did that, they would report to Washington, ‘Oh yeah. We’re makin’ our appointments within — within 10 days, within the 14-day frame,’ when in reality it had been six, nine, in some cases 21 months,” he said.
Like the Benghazi scandal and the IRS targeting of conservative and Tea Party nonprofits, the VA scandal has legs.
Yet President Obama, who nowadays seems barely aware of what his administration is doing, claimed through a spokesman that he learned about this controversy that is rocking his administration from news reports.
It cannot be true. In fact Obama’s team was briefed on the long-running problems at the VA by the outgoing Bush administration during the transition process in 2008.
The Washington Times obtained government documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) that showed that the “Obama administration received clear notice more than five years ago that VA medical facilities were reporting inaccurate waiting times and experiencing scheduling failures that threatened to deny veterans timely health care.”
VA officials told the Obama-Biden transition team in the weeks following Obama’s election that the agency should not rely on the waiting times that VA facilities were reporting.
“This is not only a data integrity issue in which [Veterans Health Administration] reports unreliable performance data; it affects quality of care by delaying — and potentially denying — deserving veterans timely care,” the officials wrote.
Of course, if the Obama administration had simply failed to do anything about the problem, that would be one thing, but Obama officials doctored government records to airbrush the problem away. This is why patient advocates and lawmakers are demanding the head of the guy in charge, the hapless Veterans Affairs secretary, Eric Shinseki.
Shinseki testified before a congressional panel last week and came across as being out of his depth, claiming he was as angry about the deadly bureaucratic bungling as anyone. Maybe he was sincere; maybe he wasn’t.
A lapdog and a yes man for the Obama White House, Shinseki has retired from the armed forces. But there was no need for him to step down from the Pentagon. Shinseki is the ideal Obama general: left-wing, incompetent, obedient to the point of servility, and a member of an identifiable minority group.
History shows pretty conclusively that governments are very, very bad at providing health care services and the Veterans Administration has a long, inglorious history of patient abuse and neglect that has stretched out over decades.
The VA system is outdated and doomed. It cannot work. Like Obamacare, it is based on the insane notion that medical services can be provided effectively outside of markets.
Obamacare, as people seem to be realizing, is just like the VA system and government-run systems abroad. These lethal queues are an everyday occurrence in United Kingdom and Canada where news headlines about the failings of socialized medicine keep teams of reporters busy.
Politicians in those countries are continually outraged by government health care failures. They tell voters they will fix the problems. Yet somehow the problems never get fixed. Everyone is just a number.
Those who are honest about what happens in those countries acknowledge that those individuals and groups with political clout get the best treatment; those without, suffer and die prematurely. If your medical malady lacks political sex appeal, too bad for you.
The provision of health care inevitably degenerates into interest group warfare among epidemiological lobbies.
It is useful to think of a variation of the old tax collector’s adage, that one about getting the greatest amount of feathers with the least amount of squawking. In this case, politicians and bureaucrats, instead of consumers and providers, function as health care allocators.
Their task, whether they are aware of it or not, becomes taking away the greatest amount of benefits so that it results in the least amount of squawking from patients.
This is the essence of the Obamacare-mandated “death panels” about which Sarah Palin wisely cautioned her countrymen.
The Veterans Administration scandal is a dire warning to the American public about what awaits them if the Obamacare train is not soon derailed.