A new investigation into the Department of Veterans Affairs employees in Colorado has raised the alarming possibility that VA corruption is bigger than previously believed — and President Barack Obama’s administration seems to be doing everything they can to keep it hidden.
Government investigators said Wednesday they are looking into allegations that Colorado VA employees kept unofficial lists of veterans waiting for health care that would conceal how long it takes to get the health care they’re promised.
The internal audit comes a shocking four weeks after Colorado Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Cory Gardner asked for the inquiry. Any time a veteran remains without care on a wait lists is time that a veteran’s life is on the line.
Not only is the amount of time they took to confirm the audit unacceptable, the nature of the audit itself is incredibly alarming.
An audit performed internally tends to be less rigorous and more likely to ignore major issues — the investigators may have a personal interest in concealing the wrongdoing.
Could secret wait lists be happening at VA facilities nationwide?
The VA’s internal watchdog announced an audit in a letter to Sens. Johnson and Gardner Wednesday.
Johnson and Gardner asked for the inquiry after a whistleblower told them the lists were allegedly used at the Denver VA Medical Center and VA health clinics in Colorado Springs and the Denver suburb of Golden.
The inquiry by the VA’s inspector general also will look into the whistleblower’s allegations that records at the Colorado Springs clinic were falsified after a veteran took his own life while awaiting treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Unofficial or secret lists have been used at VA facilities across the country to hide lengthy delays in care for veterans. Forty veterans died while waiting for appointments at a Phoenix VA hospital.
The scandal led Congress to fund the Veterans Choice program, which allows veterans to seek private care at government expense if they have waited 30 days or longer. It also led to the ouster of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.
It also confirmed that the alleged wait lists were unofficial records that could hide true wait times.
In a written statement, Gardner said he welcomed the inspector general’s announcement. He called the allegations serious and said they should be reviewed thoroughly.
Inspector general’s spokesman Mike Nacincik described it as an audit rather than an investigation. He said auditors could refer the results to investigators, depending on what they find.
VA wait times in Colorado have been an issue before. In February, the inspector general said workers at the Colorado Springs clinic incorrectly reported that some veterans got appointments sooner than they actually did, while at least 288 people had to wait longer than the 30-day target. Investigators didn’t say whether the records were deliberately falsified.
Our veterans deserve the top care our nation can offer, but instead their health issues are ignored, and it appears the Obama adminstration is putting more effort into concealing their wrongdoing than actually fixing the problem.
That’s wrong, anyway you spin it.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.