Military personnel and veterans are watching events at the Veterans Administration after a report found 24 veterans died waiting for medical care. Photo shows an airman on a training exercise in California, in October 2014. Photographer:Senior Airman Rachael Kane
We agree that the three hospital administrators in Dublin, Georgia, Pittsburg and Central Alabama must go, along with the Washington-based procurement official cited in a damning Inspector General’s report.
But the culture of the Veterans Administration won’t change unless everyone who did wrong is held accountable. Every manager responsible for falsifying reports for their own personal gain should be fired. The FBI is investigating misconduct in the VA and says a full criminal case will be opened if warranted. We can't see any way a criminal prosecution would not be warranted.
And not just a few scapegoats.
Between 2009-2011 at least 24 veterans died while they were on a waiting list for medical treatment. That's according to the Veterans Administration own report.
But the cover up has run so deep, that we may never know exactly how many veterans have died while waiting for medical care. And how many more veterans will die because the VA medical care system failed to catch their illness in time? Speedy treatment is essential to save lives.
Some veterans have the resources or additional health insurance to get the treatment they need immediately. But veterans who depend on the Veterans Administration to take care of their health have been stuck --- on a waiting list.
In mid-July about 35,000 veterans had waited at least 90 days for a first appointment. That's down from 57,000 in May, showing officials have finally begun to deal with the waitlist. However, a recent VA audit shows that tens of thousands of newly returning veterans will wait more than 90 days for care unless changes are made.
Congress has now passed a bill that will give the VA more resources. Yet veterans’ hospitals have needed more staff for years. If the problem had been addressed sooner, deaths might have been avoided.
But a parade of senior officials has lied and covered up the true extent of the problems. Some lied for their own personal financial benefit. Others deleted medical records, meaning the truth may be lost forever. Some officials even received bonus payments for good service, when in reality, they were harming the veterans they are dedicated to serve.
Congress needs to move quickly to fill the vacant leadership appointments that have been held up for as long as two and three years. Playing politics with these appointments is unacceptable. The Veterans Administration needs its full roster of staff to do its job properly.
VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald must ensure the culture of cover-up in the Veterans Administration can never return.