. . . with Jim Geraghty
May 28, 2014
Don't Get Distracted: The VA Scandal Is Still an Outrage, Still Unresolved
Talk about meeting the new boss, and noticing a strong resemblance to the old boss:
Last week, VA secretary Eric Shinseki tried to bring closure to the scandal by firing the VA undersecretary of health, Dr. Robert Petzel, and filling the position with Dr. Jeffrey Murawsky -- the director of VA's Great Lakes Health Care System in Winchester, Ill. Since 2009, Murawsky had oversight responsibility of the Edward Hines VA Hospital in Cook County, Ill.
But Freedom of Information Act requests by Illinois-based watchdog group Open the Books reveal that the VA spent millions on bonuses during the last three years at Hines.
Worse, in 2013, only about one-in-four of Hines' 4,230 employees were those providing the actual primary care: doctors (309) or nurses (about 800), Open the Books found.
Five veterans died waiting for care at Hines.
As far back as 1999, the VA had found systemic quality-of-care problems at Hines with little done to correct them. A VA study concluded that "Hines has the most inefficient physical plant for inpatient care and the most significant compliance issues with patient privacy."
In 2005, a VA study rated Chicago the worst regional office in the country. Now the man in charge at Hines, Murawsky, has been elevated to oversight of the entire VA system.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee is having a hearing this evening, expecting to hear from three witnesses they subpoenaed. There could be fireworks if Committee Chairman Jeff Miller doesn't get the cooperation he's seeking:
Miller noted he had asked for emails and documents between VA heads, including Secretary Eric Shinseki, about the department's destruction of a document that some officials say could be the "secret" list recently cited by Phoenix VA whistleblowers in one case.
However, his office only received 200 emails at the time from Thomas Lynch, an assistant deputy under secretary at the VA.
The committee also notes several VA officials had previously declined to appear before lawmakers to answer their questions and would consider subpoenaing the department if its officials decline again.
"VA has promised to make officials available to the committee May 28, but in the event they do not appear, VA will be served with a subpoena that would compel all three witnesses to testify before the committee May 30," said the committee.
Do you notice that after a few days of saturation coverage, the media is eager to move on? A shooter in California, a call for reparations . . . back to the familiar, easy territory of gun control, gender divides, racial divides . . .