Some of America’s most prestigious newspapers reported blatantly incorrect stories about preventable veteran deaths at a scandal-ensnared Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health center.
VA Acting Inspector General Richard J. Griffin released a report this week confirming that 40 veterans died while sitting in the electronic waiting system at the Phoenix VA Medical Center, which kept secret “paper” waiting lists separate from the official electronic system. Griffin’s report, which came out the same day as President Obama’s tepidly received American Legion speech on veteran care reform, stopped short of certifying that delayed care directly caused veteran deaths. That lack of official certification was enough to compel the mainstream media to all but definitively declare the VA scandal over. (RELATED: Obama Administration Knew About Secret VA Wait Lists For Years).
The Washington Post, the Associated Press, and a Northern Virginia-based publication called The Politico all reported inaccurate information about what the inspector general report actually said. Let’s start with The Politico.
“The inspector general faulted the VA for poor standards in scheduling doctors visits and providing health care for veterans but could not link the 28 most egregious delays to any deaths, according to the report, released Tuesday,” The Politico wrote.
The newspaper was off by six deaths.
“28 instances of clinically significant delays in care associated with access to care or patient scheduling,” the Inspector General stated. “Of these 28 patients, 6 were deceased.”
“After that report became public, whistleblowers suggested to the IG and Congress that up to 40 veterans may have died while awaiting care at Phoenix centers — a claim the inspector general said it could not prove,” The Politico wrote.
“From our review of PVAHCS electronic records, we were able to identify 40 patients who died while on the EWL during the period April 2013 through April 2014,” said the Inspector General.
The Associated Press, meanwhile, wrote one of the most mind-bogglingly inane lede grafs this side of a Cal State-Chico journalism class and got picked up as a wire report by outlets including ABC News: “The report could deflate an explosive allegation that helped launch the scandal in the spring: that as many as 40 veterans died while awaiting care at the Phoenix VA hospital. Investigators identified 40 patients who died while awaiting appointments in Phoenix.”
This article could disprove the claim that the mainstream media is a lazy, incompetent establishment. The mainstream media, meanwhile, continues to be a lazy, incompetent establishment.
Here’s The Washington Post (founded 1877): “The Department of Veterans Affairs’ watchdog confirmed Tuesday that numerous veterans died after receiving poor care in a VA hospital in Phoenix, Ariz., but stopped short of substantiating widely reported allegations that at least 40 veterans died while awaiting care.”
Let’s go back to our friend Richard J. Griffin: “From our review of PVAHCS electronic records, we were able to identify 40 patients who died while on the EWL during the period April 2013 through April 2014.”
Since TheDC’s February report that the VA Los Angeles Medical Center destroyed veteran medical records to reduce a backlog of exam requests (a practice that VA also confirmed occurred elsewhere in the VA system), reports have poured out of America’s veteran community detailing fraud, abuse, and flat-out lying by top VA officials to Congress and the public. For a while, it seemed like the VA scandals could be that rare issue on which the responsible media and the bureaucracy-protecting liberal mainstream media could agree that there’s evidence of government malpractice, which traditionally warrants some kind of critical journalistic response. Those were the days.