VA Investigation: No Proof That Falsified Data Led to Vets' Deaths

Staff | iHealthBeat | August 26, 2014

Claims that 40 veterans might have died because of delayed care and manipulated waiting lists at a Department of Veterans Affairs health center in Phoenix, Ariz., are unsubstantiated, according to an internal investigation, the New York Times reports...

According to a letter from VA Secretary Robert McDonald, a VA Office of Inspector General investigation was unable to find any evidence that linked the extended wait times to the veterans' deaths. McDonald wrote in the letter, "It is important to note that while OIG.'s case reviews in the report document substantial delays in care, and quality of care concerns, OIG was unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely quality care caused the deaths of these veterans."

However, Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson in an interview said although the investigation did not find proof of a link between care delays and the deaths, VA remains responsible for hiding the prolonged wait times at both the center in Phoenix and others around the country. He said, "I'm relieved that they didn't attribute deaths to delays in care, but it doesn't excuse what was happening." Gibson added, "It's still patently clear that the fundamental issue here is that veterans were waiting too long for care, and there was misbehavior masking how long veterans were waiting for care."

According to the Times, the investigation did find that many facilities used artifices to falsify wait time metrics. The report listed causes for the inappropriate actions, such as:

  • Destructive and punitive management culture;
  • Perverse incentives for administrators; and
  • Physician shortages (Oppel, New York Times, 8/25)...