VA Whistleblowers Condemn IG Report

Media coverage misleading due to confusing nature of report
The Phoenix VA Health Care Center / AP

The Phoenix VA Health Care Center / AP

BY:

A whistleblower who helped bring attention to extended wait times for veterans at VA hospitals says that a report by the Department of Veteran Affairs inspector general is misleading and intended to “exonerate” the VA of wrongdoing.

While the IG report found that at least 40 vets died while on electronic wait lists (EWL) and numerous veterans were forced to wait for extended periods of time for treatment, the report’s authors were “unable to conclusively assert” that electronic wait list (EWL) times caused the deaths.

The report also claims that whistleblowers did not provide them with a list of the forty patients who allegedly died while awaiting care. Instead, the investigators “conducted a broader review of 3,409 patients identified from multiple sources.”

Utilizing electronic records from the Phoenix VA, the report continues, “we were able to identify 40 patients who died while on the EWL during the period April 2013 through April 2014.”

Out of the 3,409 patients reviewed, investigators found “28 instances of clinically significant delays in care associated with access to care or patient scheduling.”

Dr. Sam Foote, the Phoenix whistleblower whose complaint started what would ultimately be called the “VA Scandal,” expressed dismay at the inspector general’s findings.

In an email sent to the Washington Free Beacon, Foote said the report summary is written with the intention to cause confusion.

When it comes to the assertion that the IG could not “conclusively assert” that wait times led to the deaths, Foote wrote “without question, their statement was worded such that the reader will assume that no harm came to the patient due to the delay in care. That is unlikely to be true.”

Foote also disputed the report’s claim that “the whistleblower was unable to provide OIG with 40 names,” calling it false and misleading.

“The intent of releasing this document early was to get positive spin going for the release of the actual report as well as to exonerate the VA from any liability for wrongful deaths or reckless endangerment,” Foote wrote.

Foote’s concerns were evident in the media’s write-ups of the IG report.

Politico, Washington Post, NPR, and the Associated Press all report, or allude to the idea, that the inspector general was unable to find a link between wait times and the deaths of 40 veterans.

According to a piece in Politico, “the inspector general said it could not prove” the widely reported claim that at least 40 veterans died while waiting to receive care from the Phoenix VA.

“The inspector general faulted the VA for poor standards in scheduling doctors visits and providing healthcare for veterans but could not link the 28 most egregious delays to any deaths,” Politico reports.

However, on three different pages, the IG notes that of these 28 patients, “6 were deceased.”

Ellison Barber   Email Ellison | Full Bio | RSS
Ellison Barber is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon, where she pens a daily column "Ellison's Must Read of the Day" and a weekly "Sunday Show Roundup." As a reporter, she covers Capitol Hill. Ellison is a regular panelist on The Blaze's "Real News." She graduated from Wofford College, has great taste in music, and currently lives in Washington, D.C. Her twitter handle is @ellisonbarber.