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Senator’s Report on VA Hospitals Explores Widespread Problems

A new report based on a year-long investigation of the VA healthcare system suggests that problems go far beyond improper scheduling practices. “Friendly Fire: Death, Delay and Dismay,” released today by the office of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), details a widespread culture of manipulation and incompetence at the VA, made worse by a troubling lack of oversight.

According to the report, the Department of Veterans Affairs has failed to live up to its motto, a quotation from Abraham Lincoln: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” Coburn, a physician, said that more than 1,000 veterans may have needlessly died in the past ten years because of VA misconduct.

“This reports shows the problems at the VA are worse than anyone imagined. The scope of the VA’s incompetence – and Congress’ indifferent oversight – is breathtaking and disturbing,” he said in a press release. “As is typical with any bureaucracy, the excuse for not being able to meet goals is a lack of resources. But this is not the case at the VA where spending has increased rapidly in recent years.”

Among other key findings, the report details disturbing misbehavior that is common among VA employees. From the summary:

Bad employees are rewarded with bonuses and paid leave while whistleblowers, health care providers, and even veterans and their families are subjected to bullying, sexual harassment, abuse, and neglect.  For example, female patients received unnecessary pelvic and breast exams from a sex offender, a noose was left on the desk of a minority employee by a co-worker, and a nurse who murdered a veteran harassed the family of the deceased to get them to admit guilt for the death.

It also details $20 billion in wasteful spending that could have been put to better use caring for veterans, and suggests that the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, which has only held two oversight hearings in the last four years, is not doing its job properly.

By: Avery Kleinman
Beth Daley Impact Fellow, POGO

Avery Kleinman At the time of publication Avery Kleinman was the Beth Daley Impact Fellow for the Project On Government Oversight.

Topics: Government Accountability

Related Content: Veterans Affairs, Congressional Oversight

Authors: Avery Kleinman

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