Hawaii senator asks inspector general to investigate alleged VA cover-up

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U.S. Senator Brian Schatz
U.S. Senator Brian Schatz
U.S. Senator Brian Schatz

HONOLULU — U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, has asked the inspector general of the Department of Veterans Affairs to investigate whether Hawaii administrators ordered hospital staffers to cover up the length of time patients are forced to wait for appointments.

In a June 4 letter obtained by Hawaii Reporter, Schatz told acting inspector general Richard Griffin there are “potential incidents of misconduct” affecting veterans seeking medical care in Hawaii.

“It is my understanding that the VA Pacific Islands Health Care System has conducted its own patient access audit and found no evidence of misconduct in Hawaii.  However, several constituents have contacted my office with information concerning the Spark M. Matsunaga VA Medical Center, one of the facilities that the VA PIHCS reportedly audited,” Schatz said.

VA doctors and nurses at that facility reportedly said the chief administrator asked staff to wipe their computers clean regarding patient wait times, Schatz said.

In addition, Schatz said there are allegations lower- and mid-level management personnel are being told to “cook-the-books” regarding patients’ appointments.

In one case, a constituent said an appointment wasn’t entered into the VA’s electronic system until three weeks after the appointment was requested so as to disguise the true wait time, Schatz said.

Schatz maintains these are “serious allegations” and said if there is evidence of wrongdoing there must be accountability.

“I request that you investigate these allegations as part of your nationwide review of misconduct at VA hospitals. We owe it to the 117,000 veterans living in Hawaii, many of whom are rural veterans on the neighbor islands who are already struggling to access routine care,” Schatz said.

A VA audit released Monday showed that veterans seeking care at the VA Medical Center in Hawaii wait an average of 145 days, five times longer than anywhere else in the country.

Perhaps more striking, some 64,000 veterans enrolled in the system for at least 10 years have yet to see a doctor.

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed bipartisan legislation giving veterans access to private medical care in limited instances. The House passed a similar bill Tuesday.

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, said the legislation in the House and Senate allows veterans who live 40 miles or more from a VA facility to receive medical care from non-VA facilities. The bills also include funding for Hawaii’s Leeward Outpatient Healthcare Access Center.

Both the House and Senate must agree on a final version of the legislation before sending it to President Obama for his authorization.

Reach Malia Zimmerman at Malia@hawaiireporter.com

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    • Interesting link.
      Even more interesting is under most popular stories;
      Cayetano said it's likely Schatz knew about the smear tactics that were used by his now chief-of-staff.
      "Those two guys are so close that I'm sure he knew," Cayetano told KITV4. "I would be willing to bet $100 with anyone that Schatz knew exactly what Winer was doing."
      Cayetano added that if Schatz did not know of Winer's involvement in the smear campaign, he most certainly knows about it now.
      "Andy Winer should resign, or Brian Schatz should fire him," said Cayetano.

      Read more: http://www.kitv.com/news/emails-detail-smear-camp

  1. VA hospitals have started short circuiting 15 years ago.this "scandal" is nothing new.it has just gotten a lot more headlines lately.and we have to remember that many "baby boomer veterans" are enrolling in VA hospitals. also,over 56% of veterans are using the VA with illnesses /injuries that are not combat/service connected disabilities thereby putting more strain on the system.in adition,the VA is a government program of entitlements.grossly inefficient and costly.and corrupt at times.these politicians like Schatz,Gabbard,Djou,Hannabusa assume that throwing more tax payer money into the VA will reform the agency.actually the VA should be dismantled and private health care be introduced,with the veterans given the choice and the money directly to them so they can purchase health care on the open market. and finally,our government,our politicians,and lobbyists have to stop supporting these endless unconstitutional and illegal immoral wars and sending our young men and women into harms way for corporatists.

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