There is a rule for Veterans Affairs: when a veteran calls for an appointment he must be seen in two to four weeks.
But this rule has nothing to do with reality. The reality is that there are only so many doctors with the funds that are available. If too many veterans call to see a doctor, they can’t follow the rule.
People should be forced to acknowledge that the resources are inadequate to make the rule work. But that’s not how politics works. Politicians only want to hear from well-paid lobbyists. Veteran Affairs is never a high priority, no matter how much they sincerely claim otherwise. They don’t want to hear that they need to divert more funds to veterans.
So people innovate.
The Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, has secretly kept around 1,500 sick veterans waiting for health care—and at least 40 of them died waiting, CNN reports. Former Phoenix VA doctor Sam Foote says managers there found a way around the rule that VA hospitals should see patients in 2 to 4 weeks: “They developed the secret waiting list.” Hospital staff would take down information on veterans seeking appointments, he says, and move that data to a secret electronic list. Their names only reached the official list when a spot opened up for them—that way, Washington never knew about the horrid delays.
The system also ensured that hospital percentages stayed high and managers got bonuses, he tells KTVK. Top administrators “should face the same consequences the provider of a private practice would face for doing that,” he says. “Prosecution.” At the same time, he says Phoenix VA staff are “frustrated” and wish they could leave because “they know what they’re doing is wrong.” (Other high-level VA staff confirm Foote’s allegations, CNN notes.)
People died from this process despite having a nominal “entitlement” to medical care. Right now the body count is at forty. KTLA relates the story of Navy veteran Thomas Breen:
No one called from the VA with a primary care appointment. Sally says she and her father-in-law called “numerous times” in an effort to try to get an urgent appointment for him. She says the response they got was less than helpful.
“Well, you know, we have other patients that are critical as well,” Sally says she was told. “It’s a seven-month waiting list. And you’re gonna have to have patience.”
Sally says she kept calling, day after day, from late September to October. She kept up the calls through November. But then she no longer had reason to call.
Thomas Breen died on November 30. The death certificate shows that he died from Stage 4 bladder cancer. Months after the initial visit, Sally says she finally did get a call.
“They called me December 6. He’s dead already.”
Sally says the VA official told her, “We finally have that appointment. We have a primary for him.’ I said, ‘Really, you’re a little too late, sweetheart.’ “
Sally says her father-in-law realized toward the end he was not getting the care he needed.
“At the end is when he suffered. He screamed. He cried. And that’s somethin’ I’d never seen him do before, was cry. Never. Never. He cried in the kitchen right here. ‘Don’t let me die.’ “
Teddy added his father said: “Why is this happening to me? Why won’t anybody help me?”
Teddy added: “They didn’t do the right thing.” Sally said: “No. They neglected Pop.”
They surely did—and to thirty-nine others, it seems.
Two things need to happen.
One is that the people who engaged in this cover-up need to be facing criminal charges. They should have fought against the political realities rather than trying to cheat and maintain their jobs.
The second is that we need to make sure that as few Americans as possible are ever subjected to the whims of government “benefits.” The entire system is a misallocation of resources and it will kill more people as it spreads. Obamacare was the wrong direction to go.
Do you think that there is any chance that we have found the only VA hospital with a secret list?