At a Department of Veterans Affairs conference on compensation and pensions, a senior official at the VA suggested Monday that media coverage of VA scandals is politically motivated, according to emails obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
In a speech he delivered Monday at the conference comprised of senior administration, the official blasted the media for blowing up the Phoenix VA scandal beyond the actions of just a few unethical employees and suggesting wait list manipulation was a problem endemic to the entire VA health care system.
The official pointed out the media has been relentless in attacking the VA, despite the fact that the problems the VA is suffering are problems shared by the civilian health care system in the United States.
The official cited a survey that stated 80 percent of veterans say they are satisfied with how quickly they can obtain services at the VA.
Internal VA surveys discussed last Tuesday at the conference, however, show that only 47 percent of veterans said they trust the VA to fulfill its commitment to veterans. Just 65 percent said, “I got the service I needed.” Only 46 percent said, “It was easy to get what I needed.” And only 54 percent said they felt valued.
After citing the positive 80 percent survey, the senior official argued that the VA outperforms the private sector on numerous metrics. However, because of agenda-driven media bias, these successes are never given any attention, except for a recent piece published in Washington Monthly.
The piece the official pointed to, written by Alicia Mundy, sums up criticism of the VA as being in large part driven by Koch interests and offers a defense of VA health care, saying, “there was no fundamental problem at the VA with wait times, in Phoenix or anywhere else.” This claim is contradicted by an inspector general report on the Phoenix wait time scandal, which also notes the problem of “inappropriate scheduling practices” is in fact widespread.
The main editor of the piece, Phil Longman, is a member of the Commission on Care, which is set to release a report in June on recommended VA health reforms.
According to a leader at a veterans’ organization, the Washington Monthly piece is likely an attempt to soften the blow of the congressionally-established body’s upcoming report, since it is not terribly friendly to the VA’s health care system.
Longman is an avowed fan of both the VA and socialized medicine, having written a book called the Best Care Anywhere, in which he argued the VA model should be extended to all Americans.
“He has a vested interested in both refuting arguments that the VA is a failed health care system, minimizing the problems at the VA, and blocking any reform efforts,”the senior veterans’ leader told The Daily Caller News Foundation back in March. “This would appear to be part of that campaign. Everybody needs to know that he has an interest in minimizing the scandal.”
At the conference last Tuesday, there was a panel of six veterans, who were present to discuss their experiences with compensation and pensions at the VA. One of the veterans said his compensation and pension (C&P) examiner didn’t even understand basic facts about the military. Another veteran said he wasn’t able to communicate with his C&P examiner, as his examiner did not even speak English.
A third veteran said the examiner spent just five minutes with her when she was starting her PTSD claim.
A fourth veteran complained that C&P medical examiners don’t have update information regarding specific physical problems linked to military occupational specialties.
Update: The initial version of this story identified the speaker as Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Health Richard Stone, the VA later contacted TheDCNF to contest his presence, but TheDCNF has confirmed the speaker was a senior official at the VA.
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