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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