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POGO, IAVA Urge VA Whistleblowers to Report Problems at VAOversight.org

VA Oversight Press Conference

POGO's Danielle Brian and IAVA Chief Policy Officer Tom Tarantino at a press conference for the launch of VAOversight.org.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has been plagued with problems of late but in the past two weeks, a new, particularly troubling scandal has come to light: secret waiting lists, where veterans in need of medical care languished for months waiting to be seen. After a whistleblower came forward in Phoenix, Arizona, more have spoken up about similar practices happening at their own VA medical facilities across the country.

To help hold the VA accountable and find solutions to the systemic problems, the Project On Government Oversight has partnered with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) to launch VAOversight.org. The web page offers VA staff who are aware of wrongdoing a secure avenue to confidentially tell POGO about what they know.

POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian and IAVA Chief Policy Officer Tom Tarantino announced the joint effort at a news conference this morning. Post-9/11 veterans stood by with signs reading, “Veterans Demand Answers & Accountability.”

“It takes a lot of courage to step forward and put one’s career at risk,” Brian said before the news conference. “Whistleblowers shouldn’t have to go it alone. We can help whistleblowers hold the VA accountable, and keep the focus on solutions rather than attempts to hunt down those who voiced concerns.”

Brian and Tarantino emphasized that while the site is primarily a tool for tipsters to reveal new instances of bad practices at the VA, the ultimate goal is to explore ways to improve the system so veterans can get the proper medical treatment the government promises.

“I’m hoping that everything is fine and there aren’t any more problems in the VA medical system, but as we say in the military, hope is not a method,” said Tarantino, a former Army officer. “We actually have to proactively find the extent of the problem in the VA medical system before it gets fixed.”

The recent revelations provoked a hearing this morning at the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki testified at the hearing, “The State of VA Health Care.”

“VA provides safe, effective healthcare, equal to or exceeding the industry standard in many areas,” Shinseki told the committee. “That said, there are always areas that need improvement. We can, and we must do better. VA takes any allegations about patient care or employee misconduct very seriously. I am personally angered and saddened by any adverse consequence that a Veteran might experience while in, or as a result of, our care.”

In light of the cover ups that have been reported over the last few weeks, Shinseki has ordered audits of all VA medical centers. President Obama has come out in support of Shinseki, but last week, the House Veterans Affairs Committee voted to subpoena top VA officials for related documents.

Tarantino and Brian said they hope Shinseki and the rest of the VA will use the scandal as a catalyst for real change to what they see as systemic problems.

“The VA is charged not just with providing government services but with a moral obligation to our veterans,” Brian said. “Not only are they failing to perform their duty, but they’re covering it up.”

Image by Joe Newman.

By: Avery Kleinman
Beth Daley Impact Fellow, POGO

Avery Kleinman Avery Kleinman is the Beth Daley Impact Fellow for the Project On Government Oversight.

Topics: Government Accountability

Related Content: Ethics, Veterans Affairs

Authors: Avery Kleinman

Submitted by Sonny Cushman at: June 7, 2014
I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in October 2010. I enrolled in the Va HEALTHCARE system at that time knowing my insurance was due to run out at the end of November. I had been going to a private firm prior to my enrollment. When I enrolled the VA was fully aware of my prostate cancer, I WAS TOLD ONLY MY Primary VA care physician could approve treatment outside the VA. I made weekly calls to the VA and telling them of my situation and needed to see my primary care physician each time i was told there was nothing they could do. I was to begin Radiation Treatments beginning December 3rd.and proceeded with the treatments. I DID NOT GET TO SEE MY PRIMARY CARE DR. FOR 5 MONTHS and then was told they would not pay for it as I did not get prior approval. After a year and a half fight they finally conceded and paid the balance. I have had two claims with the VA. The 1st was an appeal for dropping my disability from 100% to 10% in 2012.They kept telling me they were working on it and had it in hand. I finally contacted my Senator, Congressman and other agencies for help. Shortly after that I received a letter from the VA Stating they could not locate my appeal. Being discouraged I gave up. Most recently I filed a claim in October 2013. I received letters from the VA in Dec. Jan. Feb, and lastly on April 17th saying be patient as they were working on it. On May 2, 2014 I once again received a letter saying that they were unable to locate my claim. TWO CLAIMS UNABLE TO BE LOCATED. I THINK NOT. I have reopened both claims and WILL not be discouraged again.
Submitted by M. Hets at: May 27, 2014
I have a claim that’s 13 years old with no resolve in sight, been waiting since '06 for a hearing date. April 2012 I filed a claim for an injury that is right in my records and the VA sent me a letter stating the injury took place in the military, its in your records, and here is a 0%. Another claim, filed same time, was awarded 10% and didn’t get a penny of the back pay. Called the VA about the back pay and was told to appeal it. & with this package was a bill from the D.O.D stating I owe them $600 and they are going to garnish my wages in 30 days. And, malpractice, discrimination, unethical and illegal practices I've dealt with at the local VA.
Submitted by Blondie1951 at: May 24, 2014
My son is stationed in Alaska (Fort Wainwright) and each time he has to see a specialist, he has to fly to Seattle or Anchorage on his dime initially! His reimbursement takes FOREVER! He's been on at least three trips and each time, he has not had enough money to eat or stay in a motel, thus eating crackers and sleeping in his rental car! When I found this out I was FURIOUS! I have had to send him money three times in order for him to eat or have a place to stay that is warm! If he were an officer, there would be no out-of-pocket expenses for him! These soldiers with families have to take care of the home front in the way of bills or get called in by "the man"! WHY? Now he has to have kidney surgery and has to flying to Seattle by himself to and from. They say this is a day surgery! In other words he was told, "Oh! You'll need fine! You'll just feel like you are peeing razor blades!" REALLY!!! It's ridiculous! He's being "Med Boarded" out of the military and being treated as a second class citizen! SHAME ON THE MILITARY! It's taking forever to get him home! If he were here, he would have family to help him! BRING MY SON HOME! You're done with him! Quit drawing out the agony of being away from his family!
Submitted by john at: May 23, 2014
the worst v.a. facility is in the Philippines. why is millions of tax payers dollars used for a veterans facility that u.s. veterans cannot use? why is there 211 highly paid employees at a veterans facility you cannot understand if someone actually answers the phone, usually a 2 to 3 hours listening to recordings just to be disconnected? this veterans facility in the Philippines should be closed if veterans cannot receive the same benefits as in the states!!
Submitted by Jim at: May 21, 2014
where can I get help with mistreatment from the VA clinics/Doctors. Dr. has stated cutbacks are reason for my pain med reduction. He plans to take me off them with no plan for my pain stating pain is good, where can I get help.
Submitted by Fearful at: May 20, 2014
The VA Healthcare System can never function as structured. It needs: 16. If above are not accomplished, eliminate V A health care and provide for all Veterans under Tri-care and Medicare.
Submitted by Beth at: May 20, 2014
My late husband went to the VA in Scranton/Wilkesboro PA fron 1993-2003. He was in pain. It was everywhere. They continued to tell him he was just getting old. They sent him home each time with pills. He died in 2004 at the age of 58. He was not old from 1993-2003 by any means. We arrived in Phz, AX in May 2004. We were seen right away. He was diagnosed with cancer by early June 2004. He was told he was going to die soon and told they would help us set up Hospice. We were over welmed with the care and consideration given to us by the Phx AZ VA. We were given personal phone numbers to call at any time. As is turns out, he had had this cancer for some 10-12 years. It took only a month to be seen and diagnosed in Phx AZ. I do feel for the ones who are not having this experince but I also feel it is important for others to know, they do really help too. The head of the VA should have demanded more help rather cooking to books. She is a BAD person.
Submitted by Nich at: May 20, 2014
A lot of us still suffer from the Vietnam War receiving nothing from the VA. The government has a way of classifying what went on in a Thailand the spraying of agent orange . My claim was denied even though they admit using the agent I had an inside job meaning I could not have been affected. Well here I am with five cancer operations, minus my esophagus, part of my colon and my prostrate. I am beginning to believe that the VA awards a bonus to those who disapprove benefits. I went to war to protect my country but in return I was awarded cancer.
Submitted by Dfens at: May 19, 2014
Want to know what is wrong with the VA? It's the same thing that's wrong with the rest of our defense industry. They rely on contractors to supply all their people. The contractors try to hire the least costly people who have the required resume to do the job. They don't care about the quality of work they do as long as they cost the least while doing it. And if these people don't get the work done, then the contractor lobbies to have the VA hire more people because it means more money for the contractors. So we get a government that costs more and provides less. Stop the outsourcing of inherently government jobs, and what's wrong with the VA will fix itself. Now where's my prize?
Submitted by Kriket at: May 18, 2014
some time back I had an appointment with my health care provider at the clinic in Eureka Calif 95501 only to be postponed time and time again finally after six months I was assigned a new health care provider. A year ago I went in to have my eyes checked. The Optomotrist said that I don't need new glasses, I also told him that my left eye drifts to the left when ever I read. He told me that I don't know what I am talking about and that he had checked me for that. My glasses in the past have always had corrective issues to prevent this from happening. He sent me out with out any thing to cover my eyes after dilating them. That same day I made an appointment with an opthomologist. After his examination he told me that my existing glasses needed to be replaced and the prisims in the left lens to be added again to keep my eye from floating to the left when I try to read. This cost me almost $500.00 out of pocket. I need to have my eyes checked again but refuse to go back the the VA for eye exam. Third item I took a very nasty fall several months back. The VA took xrays to determine if I had broken both wrist. Lucky I hadn't. The pain kept nagging on and went back in to see about some braces. I was measured in all sorts of directions on both hands. I asked why the measuring can't you just give me large braces. Oh no, they have to be special built for your hands. Two weeks passed and was told that my braces were in. I drove the 75 miles one way to the clinic only to have someone come out in the waiting room and had several pairs of wrist braces and asked me if I needed small medium or large. I said what about the ones that are built for me off of the measurements they took. The person said they only come in three sizes. I knew this as I have had to have them when I had carpel tunnel problems. I knew at the time all this measuring went on something was phony and I had to travel 75 miles one way for this. At this point I have no faith in my VA clinic and that is a shame. I am 74 years old and do not need any phony crap about my health.
Submitted by Shirl at: May 18, 2014
Thank you to all Veterans and we must see that our government does not use our vets in vain, as they have been used when invading two countries that took many lives and we were not attacked. We must stop our government from getting into other countries business when we have no business being there.
Submitted by Pacer at: May 18, 2014
I was given a VA phone number to call (1-800-827-1000) from the Chief Supervisor at the Texarkana Texas VA center next to Interstate Highway 30. I was requesting a number to check on a possible will from my fathers death. Just try calling this number. Just another VA scam. I am a 28 year disabled Vet, Father of a Fallen Hero, & Uncle of a Fallen Hero.
Submitted by Sanders Noblitt at: May 18, 2014
Posting this tweet is irresponsible: @SenJohnMcCain -- "Decent care for our veterans is the most solemn obligation a nation incurs. We will be judged by God and history." John McCain has one of the worst records on health and education of Veterans.
Submitted by chameleon at: May 17, 2014
The situation at V.A.healthcare is the ''tip''of the iceberg.Just wait until the ''scandal''is revealed about the V.A.comp.scheme,especially concerning VIETNAM VETS!!!

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