VA Details Sweeping Changes To Speed Care To Veterans

Gregg Zoroya | USA Today | August 25, 2014

The Department of Veterans Affairs promises sweeping changes — and ample contrition — in a prepared response to an inspector general's report due this week on a scandal over delayed health care for veterans.  The VA response — copies of which were obtained by USA TODAY — includes talking points that reveal at least one crucial finding by investigators: No deaths of veterans at a Phoenix VA hospital could be "conclusively" linked to delays in care at that facility.  The talking points emphasize "it is important to note" this finding.

Sam Foote, a retired doctor who worked at the Phoenix facility, raised the issue of 40 deaths occurring among veterans whose care was delayed.  The allegation of deaths, which surfaced in April, focused considerable media attention on VA management problems in Phoenix. A preliminary inspector general's report in late May concluded that delays in care and manipulation of scheduling records were systemic in the sprawling VA system of 150 hospitals and 820 clinics.

The scandal drove VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign May 30, hours after he lamented that he had found a "totally unacceptable lack of integrity" within the system.  The Senate confirmed Robert McDonald as the new secretary late last month.  In a news release the VA prepared for when the inspector general's report is published, McDonald says, "We sincerely apologize to all veterans who experienced unacceptable delays in receiving care. … We will work hard to rebuild trust with veterans and the American public."...