Wednesday, June 11, 2014

VA Declares War On Veterans


Fans of television’s NCIS always expect an investigator to turn to another and proclaim, “So that’s why he killed him.”

Motive. It’s the stuff of every criminal case, and answers the question of why a person commits a crime, whether murder or fraud.

At first I was at a loss in figuring out why officials at Veterans Affairs hospitals falsified records to hide sinfully long “wait times” for veterans to see doctors. Honestly, I just couldn’t get my head around the suggestion that employees desired to harm veterans.

It just didn’t make sense.

Now, everything does, and boy was I in La-La Land.

They did it for the money, stupid. And what’s been going on at the VA amounts to declaring war on our veterans who need medical care.

In recent years Veterans health employees got $109 million in bonuses after meeting “performance standards.” At one VA facility, where lists were manipulated, the top guy got $9,000 in bonuses.

Simply put, reporting actual wait times jeopardized annual bonuses, which VA employees had become to expect. In effect, these “performance standards” had built-in incentives to lie and cheat.

And that’s precisely what employees did. VA centers nationwide misrepresented patient scheduling for 57,000 ex-military. An additional 64,000 vets weren’t even on waiting lists for doctor appointments they requested. At 731 VA facilities schedulers were pressured to “utilize unofficial lists or engage in inappropriate practices in order to make wait times appear more favorable.”

Yeah, “appear more favorable” so they could get their bonuses.

The tragic result of this fraud? While they waited to see a doctor, military veterans died.

Recently Congress suspended bonuses at VA health facilities. They should also demand that bonuses be repaid immediately, until it is shown they were free of fraud. Afterwards, lawmakers should eliminate such bonuses altogether.

Congress has sought prosecutions from the Attorney General.

There’s enough crime here to keep prosecutors busy for years: manipulating public records for financial gain; theft; embezzlement; wire fraud; and I think creative prosecutors might consider manslaughter charges in egregious cases.

Looking forward you can expect scores of plea deals as low-level, pencil-pushing employees point up at VA bosses.

Also expect an abundance of litigation on the law’s civil side. Families of deceased veterans should sue for wrongful death after loved ones died while waiting to see a physician.

These VA types might think they have immunity. What I hate about government immunity is it protects officials when they screw us. The thing I like about it is it doesn’t apply when they use fraud.

Judges take into account the number of victims when sentencing criminals. In this scandal victims include veterans and families, and, indeed, all tax-paying Americans that paid for these bogus bonuses.

Which brings us back to motive. The crooked VA employees who shafted veterans to line their own pockets should be fired and in some cases serve jail time.

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