The Obama administration knew about allegations of secret waiting lists at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as early as 2010, The Daily Caller has learned.
The current VA scandal involving secret waiting lists that led to preventable veteran deaths at the Phoenix VA Medical Center claimed the scalp of Obama-appointed former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, who resigned at the end of last month. Former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that President Obama only found about the VA wait-list scandal from watching the news.
But the Obama administration knew that an internal VA investigation into secret “paper” waiting lists was conducted in 2010 under Shinseki.
“We conducted this review to determine the validity of an allegation that senior officials in Veterans Integrated Service Network 20 (VISN) instructed employees at the Portland VA Medical Center to use unauthorized wait lists to hide access and scheduling problems,” according to an August 17, 2010 VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) report entitled “Review of Alleged Use of Unauthorized Wait Lists at the Portland VA Medical Center,” which was obtained by TheDC.
The report was based on an OIG review conducted in Portland, Oregon between March and June 2010. The facility, like all VA medical centers, was prohibited from keeping paper waiting lists separate from the official electronic waiting-list system.
“OIG has reported problems since 2005 with schedulers not following established procedures for making or recording medical appointments. This practice has resulted in data integrity weaknesses that impacted the reliability of patient waiting times and facility waiting lists,” the report continued.
“The OIG received an anonymous e-mail alleging the use of unauthorized paper wait lists, and that the eye clinics had over 3,500 patients waiting more than 30 days for appointments,” according to the report.
The IG report noted that “We did not substantiate the allegation” about the unauthorized wait lists but nonetheless found that some staff did not notify more than 2,000 patients of follow-up appointments.
“No one admitted to either instructing or being instructed to use unauthorized paper wait lists,” the report stated. “We also conducted visual inspections of schedulers’ work areas and found no evidence of paper wait lists.”
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is currently investigating claims of reprisal and abuse against VA whistleblowers in 19 different states.
“It’s not that people haven’t brought this up before, it’s just the word ‘secret’ lists blew it up in the media,” Vietnam Veterans of America’s Richard Weidman revealed in a recent interview, noting the long-known existence of “handwritten” VA wait lists separate from the electronic systems.