A whistleblower at the Phoenix VA Health Care System who spoke out about the mishandling of veteran suicides last year said last week that little has changed since hospital staff made national headlines for keeping secret wait lists two years ago.
"They are still manipulating data, it is still happening, they are still being trained to do it at facilities just like the one behind us," Brandon Coleman, the whistleblower, told Fox 10 News Phoenix.
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"If someone commits wrongdoing, whether they are a janitor or the director they deserve to be fired–until that happens people are going to continue manipulating the system if there is a financial gain," Coleman, who was put on leave after speaking out in January 2015, stated.
The 2014 wait list scandal led the Department of Veterans’ Affairs inspector general to investigate 73 agency hospitals across the nation. The watchdog only recently began releasing the findings of those investigations under pressure from critics and repeated inquiries. According to a USA Today analysis of the findings, supervisors at VA hospitals in at least seven states instructed staffers to falsify patient wait times.
An unrelated inspector general investigation into a VA outpatient clinic in Colorado Springs also found that veterans’ long wait times there were covered up by staffers who used the incorrect dates to make it appear that patients faced shorter wait times.
Republican lawmakers and groups like Concerned Veterans for America have long advocated for reform at the VA to ensure that employees are held responsible for misconduct. The Obama administration has resisted legislative efforts to boost accountability at the agency.
Allegations of misconduct at the Phoenix VA have surfaced in the wake of the wait list scandal. Last month, reports indicated that staff at the hospital system had been cancelling pending appointments for dead veterans, which violates VA policy, in an apparent attempt to hide connections between pending appointments and veterans’ deaths.
Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) called on the inspector general to investigate the allegations.
"Whistleblowers in Arizona continue to report serious failures at the VA, including gross scheduling violations that closely resemble the widespread wait-time manipulation that led to the crisis of denied and delayed care in the first place," McCain said last week.
"I’m calling on the VA Inspector General to conduct a rigorous investigation of these serious allegations, and if found true, the Justice Department to hold individuals responsible for any criminal activity accountable. It’s past time for this administration to root-out wrongdoing at the VA by holding corrupt executives accountable and finally reforming the culture that is denying our veterans the care they deserve."