Rep Warns VA Reform Commission: Someone On Your Panel Spreading Blatant Pro-VA Propaganda

Jonah Bennett | Contributor

GOP Rep. [crscore]Jeff Miller[/crscore] shot a letter Monday to the head of a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reform commission, alerting her a member of the panel is spewing blatant pro-VA propaganda.

Phillip Longman, a member of the Commission on Care, recently edited a piece entitled “The VA isn’t Broken Yet” at The Washington Monthly, which hailed the VA as a success and fought off criticisms of the department as a Koch-funded plot. It just so happens Longman is known for his vigorous defense of socialized medicine and advocacy that the VA model be applied more broadly to the entire health care system in the United States.

And the apology for the VA was replete with errors.

The report showing Longman’s clear conflict of interest attracted the attention of Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, who wrote a letter to Chairwoman Nancy M. Schlichting. It warns her of “attempts by Commission on Care member Phillip Longman to spread blatantly false propaganda in an attempt to minimize the wait-time scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

“Longman either believes the article’s false claims, or he–as an editor of the piece–signed off on them knowing they were untrue,” Miller added. “In either case, I would caution you and all other Commission on Care members to take anything Longman says with an extremely large grain of salt.”

There were clear errors in the Longman-edited piece.

First, the article claimed 40 veterans did not die waiting for care at the Phoenix VA based on selective quotations from an inspector general report. In reality, not only did 40 veterans die, but unofficial and official wait lists showed deaths totaled 293 veterans.

Second, Alicia Mundy, the author of The Washington Monthly piece, said “there was no fundamental problem at the VA with wait times, in Phoenix or anywhere else.”

The Phoenix IG report contradicts her statement entirely.

“As a result of using inappropriate scheduling practices, reported wait times were unreliable, and we could not obtain reasonable assurance that all veterans seeking care received the care they needed,” the Phoenix report noted.

Third, Mundy pointed to VA statistics back from June, 2014, to show that “For the VA system as a whole, 96 percent of patients received appointments within thirty days.”

However, an IG report in August 2014 showed reported wait times should be viewed with the utmost skepticism.

“[T]he breakdown of the ethics system within VHA contributed significantly to the questioning of the reliability of VHA’s reported wait time data. VHA’s audit, directed by the former VA Secretary in May 2014 following numerous allegations, also found that inappropriate scheduling practices were a systemic problem nationwide.”

Wait times prior to August, 2014, were almost certainly false.

“You can’t solve problems by denying they exist. Further, attempts by anyone to minimize the VA scandal are quite simply a slap in the face to the many veterans who suffered from it,” Miller concluded. “It’s unfortunate that some Commission on Care members aren’t familiar with these simple concepts. Please do not allow their ignorance and or bias to influence the important work you are doing.”

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