Last week, President Obama hedged his bets on the VA scandal, saying that “if these allegations are true” then we have a serious problem. Today, the Veterans Administration’s inspector general released his findings. In short, the allegations are true. VA hospitals kept secret waiting lists, and veterans died awaiting care they were entitled to receive. Not only that, but officials also lied about the scandal and engaged in a cover-up. The VA may have also given out bonuses to officials for doing such a good job of covering up the neglect of veterans who needed care. The VA in Texas stands accused today of behaving like a full-blown crime syndicate.
Emails and VA memos obtained exclusively by The Daily Beast provide what is among the most comprehensive accounts yet of how high-level VA hospital employees conspired to game the system. It shows not only how they manipulated hospital wait lists but why—to cover up the weeks and months veterans spent waiting for needed medical care. If those lag times had been revealed, it would have threatened the executives’ bonus pay.
What’s worse, the documents show the wrongdoing going unpunished for years, even after it was repeatedly reported to local and national VA authorities. That indicates a new troubling angle to the VA scandal: that the much touted investigations may be incapable of finding violations that are hiding in plain sight.
“For lack of a better term, you’ve got an organized crime syndicate,” a whistleblower who works in the Texas VA told The Daily Beast. “People up on top are suddenly afraid they may actually be prosecuted and they’re pressuring the little guys down below to cover it all up.”
“I see it in the executives’ eyes,” the whistleblower added. “They are worried.”
Paul Rieckhoff, founder and chief executive officer of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), believes that even more revelations are coming.
“This newest case just further illustrates that the scandal is much more far reaching than most people realize,” Rieckhoff said, “Phoenix was just the tip of the iceberg. Scandal has become the new normal, it’s the status quo at the VA right now.”
Sen. John McCain is calling for VA head Gen. Eric Shinseki to resign. Or, if he won’t do that, for President Obama to fire him.
“But you’re stopping short — I want to be precise — from saying that the Secretary of Veteran Affairs Eric Shinseki should resign?” Blitzer asked.
“I think it’s — I think it’s reached that point,” McCain replied hesitantly. “I have not called for it. I was going to wait until the hearing that’s going to take place here very soon. But this keeps piling up.”
“And it can’t be just an isolated — the Phoenix VA is not an island,” the senator explained. “It’s not immune to other influences. Every other VA is probably going to have these same influences on them, because they were trying to comply with guidelines that were laid down from the headquarters of VA which they couldn’t meet.”
“That’s what this whole waiting list stuff is all about,” McCain concluded. “So I haven’t said this before, but I think it’s time for General Shinseki to — to move on.”
On Fox moments ago, McCain said that the VA scandal rises to the level of criminal misconduct, and called for the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation of the VA. That’s a call for the Obama administration to investigate one of its own loyalists.
Update: Democrat Sen. Mark Udall (CO) is also calling for Shinseki to resign. Udall is one of the more vulnerable Democrats in the mid-terms.
— Mark Udall (@MarkUdall) May 28, 2014
But the House’s #2 Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD), is accusing Republicans of “politicizing” the scandal. Hoyer hails from deep blue Maryland, and doesn’t have to concern himself with being loyal to anything other than the Democrat Party and the Obama administration.