May 15, 2014

Eric Shinseki deflects Senate panel's tough questions on Veterans Affairs scandals

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki dodged repeated questions about why he failed to ensure his underlings were not “cooking the books” on patient wait times despite years of warnings during a Senate hearing Thursday.

Senators from both parties pressed Shinseki about repeated warnings going back to 2010 documenting specific tactics being used at Veterans Affairs' medical centers to hide huge backlogs of appointments for medical care.

Since then, a series of reports by the Government Accountability Office, the VA inspector general and Shinseki's own internal medical investigators documented the existence of bogus waiting lists and other paperwork tricks at veterans hospitals nationwide.

Yet Shinseki did not move to end the practice until reports surfaced in Congress a month ago that hospital administrators at the VA hospital in Phoenix were keeping phony appointment books to hide patient backlogs.

As many as 40 patients died there due to delays in care, according to allegations referred to the inspector general for investigation.

When Shinseki was repeatedly asked Thursday by members of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs how he had responded to the previous reports, and whether anyone was fired, he insisted on getting the results of the IG’s investigation and his own internal review of what happened in Phoenix before offering conclusions or taking disciplinary actions.

Several senators voiced frustration, pointing out they that were asking about Shinseki’s response to prior reports, not the ongoing investigation.


Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, questioned whether performance bonuses paid to top administrators created an incentive to cook the books, especially since there seems to be a lack of accountability at the VA.

By:  Mark Flatten
Source: The Washington Examiner