American Elephants


A Secretive Government Trying to Avoid Blame. by The Elephant's Child

I wrote just recently about the backlog of disability claims, the backlog of requests for medical exams that was rolling over and over, month after month, and how they dealt with this by just destroying veterans medical records or requests—in a program called “System Redesign.” They didn’t have the resources to do all those exams. They were getting around 3,000 requests a month and only had the resources to do about 800, so they just cancelled the backlog. They figured that a lot of those patients either had their studies somewhere else, had their surgery or—died.

Now it appears that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) blocked the release of the names of hospitals where 19 veterans died because of delays in medical screenings. CNN reported in January that 19 veterans died as a result of delayed gastrointestinal cancer screenings, while another 63 were seriously injured. CNN obtained internal documents from the VA listing the number of “institutional disclosures of adverse events,” bureaucracy-speak for a mistake that gravely harms or kills a patient.

The documents did not list the hospitals or clinics where the “adverse events” took place. A Tampa Tribune reporter asked the VA for the names of the hospitals and was told that he would have to file a FOIA request. His FOIA request was denied.

The House Committee on Veterans Affairs launched a website this week highlighting the VA’s habit of failing to respond to press requests. Yes, press exposure of your failings can be embarrassing or worse, but that’s why the FOIA law requires agencies to respond within 20 days. I wrote about that recently too. No federal agency wants to expose their misdoings or shortcomings to public scrutiny, or press scrutiny— though the press, is for the most part, such a slobbering lapdog for the administration—because people could get fired, the agency could lose funding.

And now there’s another shooting at Fort Hood, with at least 4 dead and many wounded. Will this be another case of “workplace violence” where those injured do not get the benefits to which they are entitled? I just wrote about that too. I take no pleasure in writing about these things, I write because I worry. Our government is increasingly attempting to avoid any possible blame. That may be a natural failing, but it is unacceptable. Americans rely on an open and transparent government in which officials appreciate the honor of being entrusted with high office—and strive mightily to live up to the office. It’s a matter of character.




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