The Most Damning Part of the Inspector General’s VA Report

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 28 2014 4:40 PM

The Most Damning Part of the Inspector General’s VA Report

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A scandal on their watch

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

For a strange few hours this week, there was speculation in the punditsphere that Republicans had blown the "VA scandal." North Carolina Sen. Richard Barr, a Republican, had gone rogue and accused the veterans organizations that were now calling for Secretary Shinseki to resign of being asleep at the wheel/switch/cliché of your choice. Had Burr thrown the story off course?

No, because the story is being written by powerful inspectors general who are digging into the reports of bad treatment by the VA. The new report on problems in Arizona is making it difficult for senators (who are on recess this week) to stay silent. This part particularly:

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.
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I've chosen to highlight this graf, but one could easily look (and retch) at the sections about reported abuse and sexual harassment. Pity the Democrats, who had been coalescing around a response to the stories. "In an environment where everybody is told, 'Keep the cost down. Don't tell me anything costs more.' — it creates a culture out there for people to cook the books,” Sen. Patty Murray told Yahoo News this week. Democrats, who had tried to increase funds for the VA this year, argue that ... well, that could have done something. But Republicans, now joined by Sen. John McCain, are increasingly ready to call for a Shinseki ouster and to call for the passage of a reform bill like the one rocketed through the House last week. McCain had refused to ask for Shinseki's resignation, until today.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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