American Elephants

The Pentagon and the Veterans Administration, and Performance Issues. by The Elephant's Child


The Veterans Administration scandal is heating up. General Eric Shinseki appeared before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to give the typical bland administration response. The VA has always been committed to providing “high quality and timely” care to veterans —while noting that there were reports of “performance issues.” Well, yes.

The medical needs of veterans who have served their country honorably are falling victim to wait-list fraud in at least seven Veterans Administration facilities around the country. A VA social worker and employee representative in Chicago told CBS News that there were secret waiting lists designed to hide the fact that veterans were not receiving medical care that was timely, and sometimes no care at all.

In Phoenix close to 40 veterans may have died while waiting too long for colonoscopies and endoscopies that could have diagnosed their cancers while they were still treatable.

At the Cheyenne VA Medical Center, a Telehealth Coordinator described how patients were always listed as receiving appointments within a 14-day window no matter when the appointment was first requested nor how long the patient actually waited. At least 19 vets in Columbia S.C. and Augusta Ga., died in 2010 and 2010 waiting for appointments.

In the meantime, Private Bradley Manning, who was convicted of leaking national security secrets to the “anti-secrecy” website WikiLeaks. Manning has been diagnosed by military doctors with gender dysphoria, the sense of being a woman in a man’s body. Bradley has chosen to change his/her name legally to Chelsea, and asked for hormone therapy and to be able to live as a woman. The Pentagon is trying to help.

Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said: “No decision to transfer Pvt. Manning to a civilian detention facility has been made, and any such decision will, of course, properly balance the soldier’s medical needs with our obligation to ensure Pvt. Manning remains behind bars.”

High quality and timely care, and, um. “performance issues” indeed. How about “priority issues”as well.

ADDENDUM: Sec. Of Defense Chuck Hagel has announced that they are reconsidering hormone therapy for Manning at a time when they are sharply drawing down the Army. The VA is a different department, but at least somebody realizes that this looks bad just now.

ADDENDUM II: 5/16 , According to Breitbart: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has formally approved the request of Pvt. Bradley Manning, convicted for leaking 750,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks, to be temporarily transferred out of military custody in order to undergo expensive hormone therapy and surgery to become a transgendered woman. Manning’s taxpayer funded request to change his name from Bradley to Chelsea was approved last month by a Kansas court. Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby denies the claim, saying no decision has been made.  We will get answers eventually.

In the meantime, the VA scandal is unfolding. Secretary Shinseki dramatically fired the head of hospital operations, but the gentleman was planning to retire this summer anyway. Obama has nominated someone who was in charge of another hospital where veterans died while awaiting treatment. The ability to cover up unpleasant facts is still limited.  We will get answers eventually.

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