A new leaked document from the Department of Veterans Affairs indicates 238,657 veterans have died while waiting for health care appointments.
There are a total of 847,822 veterans on the enrollment waitlist, meaning a third have been declared deceased while in line for care, The Huffington Post reports.
Nevertheless, the problem isn’t quite as bad as it first seems. The VA has no method of removing applicants from the list, and so the death toll is spread out over a much longer period of time, as noted by the Analysis of Death Services report.
Moreover, according to VA spokeswoman Walinda West, many applicants never even finished the application, but because of the way the system is designed, they still remain on the list. In other words, since the VA is incapable of keeping its records clean and up to date, it’s difficult to ascertain exactly how many veterans have died over the past year while on the waiting list. The list has been maintained since 1985, West said, so data on the deaths could extend back for decades.
Whistleblower Scott Davis, who works as a program specialist at the VA Health Eligibility Center in Atlanta, argued West was wrong on all counts. First, incomplete applications are not actually counted in the pending list. Second, the list only goes back to 1998, since that’s the date the enrollment process became a requirement.
“VA wants you to believe, by virtue of people being able to get health care elsewhere, it’s not a big deal,” Davis told The Huffington Post. “But VA is turning away tens of thousands of veterans eligible for health care,” he said. “VA is making it cumbersome, and then saying, ‘See? They didn’t want it anyway.'”
Aside from evidence of abysmal record-keeping and wait times at the VA, what’s worse is that 34,000 of the veterans on the list, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, shouldn’t even be there. In a letter to GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson, Davis noted that combat veterans are owed five years of health care eligibility.
In the past, Davis has faced harassment and retaliation for sending information about wait times to the media. Back in 2014, after he appeared on “Fox and Friends,” Davis said he received a notice from his supervisors asking him not to talk in public again about VA issues.
Davis wants the White House on this issue involved immediately.
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