The Phoenix Veterans Affairs medical director is under fire after shocking
reports of a “secret waiting list” for veterans waiting to
receive medical attention. An alleged 40 US veterans have died waiting
for appointments with the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Healthcare System(PVAHS).
A recently retired veteran doctor, who spent 24 years at the VA system
in Phoenix, shed light on the whole scandal. Dr. Sam Foote sent letters
to government officials, CNN, and the Arizona Republic, claiming that
PVAHS was maintaining two separate waiting lists.One list claimed they
were providing veterans with timely appointments (14-30 days is the expected
turnaround standard for timely care required by the VA). While the other
real but secret list revealed that veterans were having to wait over a
year for their next appointment. VA staff were instructed not to save
actual appointments in the computer but to enter the veteran seeking the
appointment’s information and print out a copy from a screen capture.
PVAHS staff members became suspicious about the secret list and the administration’s
praise of its use. Staff members raised concerns via email claiming that
this list is unethical and a disservice to our veterans.
In light of the entire situation, the Department of Veteran Affairs is
finally taking action. The VA secretary put three officials, including
Director Sharon Helman on administrative leave, until further investigation.
Suggestions were made that Associate Director Lance Robinson and others
were transferring veterans off the secret list. Dr. Foote confirmed this
suspicion saying officials made a “monumental effort” to move
as many patients off the list before the inspector general arrived.
A new report from the Government Accountability Office reveals that 1.5
million veterans’ appointments mysteriously vanished from the list
from last May, with no way of knowing if those patients received treatment.
Foote estimates the number of veterans still on the “secret waiting
list” waiting for care is somewhere between 1,400 and 1,600.
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