Like many, I have been troubled by the reports coming out of Phoenix about our veterans dying before being seen by the VA Hospital. Even more disturbing for me, was the late response from the Obama Administration and many of our elected officials.
What was more troubling was the Arizona Republic report showing that high-ranking administrators with the VA, including the one under scrutiny in Phoenix have been receiving bonuses. The article pointed to a website, openthebooks.com, which highlighted the fact that Phoenix VA workers alone had received $843,000 in bonuses.
They received the bonuses while allegedly cooking the books to work the system, and provide false data to meet department objectives.
Whistle-blowers have shed light on the fact that veterans have not been receiving proper care, and allegedly some have died over it.
Like many of the controversies that come to light in today’s society, I want to know not only why, but how did it get to this point? How has there been no oversight over a program that is funded with taxpayer dollars for people who truly deserve the treatment and care?
On May 21, President Obama finally spoke up, saying the allegations are being taken seriously and someone must pay. First, it took our president way too long to respond to the issue, and second, this serious issue is now going to be turned into political propaganda and not be taken seriously and repaired as needed.
It’s not just Phoenix under investigation. While all of the facilities involved in the investigation have not be made public, it has been confirmed that similar allegations are being investigated at facilities in San Antonio, Texas, and Fort Collins, Colo.
Senators, such as Arizona’s John McCain, called for an investigation back in April when allegations first came to the surface.
Even though they called for the investigation, I am still left wondering how things got so bad. It also reminds me of an Arizona issue where Child Protective Services somehow mismanaged 6,000 cases, leading to the disbanding of the agency and a creation of a new, supposedly corrective one.
As a society, we have a responsibility to take care of our children, and to support and care for our veterans. Yet, we have whistle-blowers coming out showing time and again how we are doing nothing more than failing them because leadership is dropping the ball.
One veteran’s death due to delayed care is too many, yet there are allegations that there could be a dozen or more. One child’s death because of the system’s negligence is one too many, yet we have stories of many.
The whistle-blower bringing the delayed cared for veterans allegations to light was Dr. Sam Foote, who retired from the Phoenix VA in December. He provided documents he filed with the VA inspector seeking investigations into alleged misconduct from gross mismanagement, to possibly being criminal.
It turns out that apparently these administrators were getting bonuses for reducing wait time. If you need a motive, I think we’ve found it. Cooking the books in the name of money is a likely reason.
However, this behavior doesn’t just start. Someone has to lead it, keep it going and at a higher level, continue turning the blind eye. Unfortunately, the only time the blind eye comes back into focus is when someone has the courage to come forward and make it a public concern covered by the media.
If Foote hadn’t come forward, how long would this have continued?