Veteran Deaths While Waiting Months or Years for Medical Care and Disability Benefits Shock Nation.
Today, May 15, the United States Senate will hold an oversight hearing on more than twenty serious scandals that have struck the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in the past few years. The hearing begins at 10AM, and it will be broadcast live on CSPAN.
Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC), who lead the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, released a list of witnesses that include VA Secretary Eric Shinseki as well as several veteran service organizations and government oversight agencies.
Healthcare and Claims Scandals
The hearing will focus on two sets of major scandals rocking the agency:
- Delays in healthcare resulting in at least 40 alleged Veteran deaths at the Phoenix VA medical center, according to news reports by the (Arizona) Republic newspaper and CNN television news. Similar scandals arose in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Fort Collins, Colorado, plus Austin, San Antonio, and Harlingen, Texas.
- Delays in processing disability claims nationwide resulting in 19,500 Veterans who died before VA could finish their claim, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting. VA is reducing the claim “backlog” of initial disability claims. However, the collateral damage is severe: appealed claims rose to a record 275,000, and award adjustments (such as adding a spouse or child to an existing claim) hit a new record of 431,000.
VA is subject of unprecedented scrutiny by legislators and journalists for several reasons. First, there is increased public interest in the welfare of our Veterans. Second, VA’s chronic inability to meet the demands of one million new patients and claims from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars continue to cause pains for the agency. And, third, an unusually high number of VA employee whistleblowers are stepping forward to report malfeasance and demand improvements so fewer Veterans die while waiting for care or benefits.
For details about today’s Senate hearing, please read this article by award-winning investigative Jamie Reno at the International Business Times.