IG Report and HVAC hearing in one word: Brutal
It was an early morning after staying up past midnight last night listening and watching the House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on why they aren't getting documentation they had requested YEARS ago. Unfortunately for the VA personnel who had to testify, it couldn't have been worse timing. The IG report came out yesterday at noon, and the hearing started at 7:30.
I am not kidding when I say it was the most brutal hearing of all time. I've been to literally thousands of hearings, and even testified before congress on about 15 different occassions. Nothing I have seen came close to this. For just one 6 minute example of how bad it was, watch this:
Here is the chairman getting into it too. I met him at convention last year, and he's a super nice guy, so you can just feel how unbelievably frustrated he is:
It literally went on and on. Dr Lynch talked about taking his wife with him on the trip to Arizona, which really angered a lot of the panel. During the 5 minute intermission he forgot to turn his microphone off and he was talking about how he shouldn't have said it. Well, no, actually you shouldn't have DONE it.
Dr. Lynch went to Phoenix to get a handle on the "system", he said that over and over and over. He spoke with no patients, no doctors, no whistleblowers. They only talked to the schedulers. The same people who were maintaining the secret waiting lists. How on Earth he expected to get answers from the people he was ostensibly there to check on is beyond me, and seemed to be beyond the Congressmen and women as well.
Congressman Huelskamp in particular wasn't buying ANYTHING that VA was selling last night, as he made clear in a series of Tweets that Twitchy noted:
And the dam is starting to break on demands for Secretary Shinseki's resignation. While some Republicans and a few Georgia Democrats had called for it already, others had called for everyone to wait on the IG report. Well, that came in, and things turned south QUICKLY (from Politico):
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki’s support on Capitol Hill crumbled on Wednesday as members of his own party deserted him in the aftermath of a highly critical inspector general report that found “systemic” problems at VA medical facilities.
Within just hours of the report’s release, the number of Democrats calling for Shinseki’s resignation more than doubled. By Wednesday evening, more than a dozen congressional Democrats publicly called for his ouster, joining a growing number of influential Republicans....
Among those pushing for his dismissal are the Senate’s most vulnerable Democrats, whose reelection bids are critical to the party maintaining control of the chamber next year. Democratic Sens. Mark Udall of Colorado, John Walsh of Montana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina released separate statements saying the secretary must go, reflecting pressure to break ranks with the Obama administration during an election year. Late Wednesday night, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) added their voices to the chorus of Democrats asking for a shake-up in leadership at the VA.
At this point it seems like it is only a matter of when the resignation will occur. It seems exceedingly unlikely that further reviews will go any better for the VA.
For those that want to look at the IG report, you can READ IT BY CLICKING HERE. It is fairly short if you don't read the addendums. One thing that stood out to me in reading it though, and which the hearing last night focused on was the number of reports done previously that apparently no one at VA really decided to take seriously.
But the take-away was this:
To review the new patient wait times for primary care in FY 2013, we reviewed a statistical sample of 226 Phoenix HCS appointments. VA national data, which was reported by Phoenix HCS, showed these 226 veterans waited on average 24 days for their first primary care appointment and only 43 percent waited more than 14 days. However, our review showed these 226 veterans waited on average 115 days for their first primary care appointment with approximately 84 percent waiting more than 14 days. At this time, we believe that most of the waiting time discrepancies occurred because of delays between the veteran’s requested appointment date and the date the appointment was created. However, we found that in at least 25 percent of the 226 appointments reviewed, evidence, in veterans’ medical records, indicates that these veterans received some level of care in the Phoenix HCS, such as treatment in the emergency room, walk in clinics, or mental health clinics.
while conducting our work at the Phoenix HCS our on-site OIG staff and OIG Hotline received numerous allegations daily of mismanagement, inappropriate hiring decisions, sexual harassment, and bullying behavior by mid- and senior-level managers at this facility. We are assessing the validity of these complaints and if true, the impact to the facility’s senior leadership’s ability to make effective improvements to patients’ access to care.