VA In Phoenix: Patient Deaths Not Caused By Appointment Delays

A VA in Phoenix is accused of forcing more than 1,000 veterans to wait for necessary medical care. Even worse, numerous sources claim up to 40 veterans died while waiting for treatment. Although the accusations are disturbing, an investigation by the Office of Inspector General determined the deaths were not caused by the delays.

An official with the Inspector General’s office confirmed the results of the investigation will be released to the public on Tuesday afternoon. The Department of Veterans Affairs is expected to respond to the report shortly thereafter.

As reported by CNN, the accusations against the Phoenix VA were made public in November 2013. Following a six-month investigation, the news agency reported up to 1,600 veterans were denied medical care — as they remained on waiting lists for an extended period of time.

Retired VA physician, Dr. Sam Foote, confirmed the accusations. According to Dr. Foote, the VA in Phoenix kept two separate waiting lists. An “official” list, which was made public, and a “secret” list, which was kept off record:

“The scheme was deliberately put in place to avoid the VA’s own internal rules… They developed the secret waiting list.”

According to VA regulations, patients have a right to see a doctor within 30 days. However, Dr. Foote claims many veterans were forced to wait months for an appointment. As the waiting list was not made public, the patients’ actual waiting times were cloaked from inspectors.

In an April interview, Dr. Foote stated that some patients were made to wait nearly two years for an appointment. He further accused VA employees of shredding and falsifying documents to hide the evidence.

Indeed, veterans throughout the nation have come forward to complain about the appointment scheduling system. Although officials have admitted the system is flawed, the Office of Inspector General determined the VA in Phoenix is not responsible for patients who died while waiting for appointments.

The Inspector General’s investigation is complete, but officials have not disclosed the details of their findings. The report may officially clear the Phoenix VA of any wrongdoing. However, it is unlikely to satisfy the surviving friends and family of those who died while waiting on the list.

CNN reports that many patients were waiting for preventative screenings. Although the tests may not have prevented any deaths, serious conditions may have been detected and treated much sooner.

The VA in Phoenix was cleared by the Office of Inspector General. However, patients and surviving family members have reported similar issues at numerous VA facilities nationwide.

[Image via NBC News]