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Waiting For Space Mountain

- May 23, 2016

To Say Washington Doesn't Get It Is The Understatement Of The Year

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TOP TAKEAWAYS

  • VA Secretary Bob McDonald compared the length of time veterans must wait to receive care at VA hospitals to the length of time people wait for rides at Disneyland, arguing that wait times are not a measure of success.
  • Despite billions spent over the last year searching for a fix, wait times continue to plague veterans waiting to receive care at the VA.
  • Hillary Clinton has praised McDonald's handling of the VA and has often sought to downplay problems with the agency.
  • McDonald has recently been floated as a potential Vice Presidential pick for Clinton.

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Today At The Christian Science Monitor Breakfast, Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald Said That If We Don't Measure Disney's Success By Wait Times We Should Not Measure The VA's Success By Wait Times Either. "At CSM breakfast VA Sec McDonald says we don't measure Disney's success by wait times so why should we measure VA's?" (Sarah Westwood, Twitter Feed, 5/23/16)

 

VA Secretary McDonald Compared The Length Of Time Veterans Wait To Receive Care To The Length Of Time People Wait For Rides At Disneyland, Stating That His Agency Should Not Use Wait Times As A Measure Of Success. "Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald on Monday compared the length of time veterans wait to receive health care at the VA to the length of time people wait for rides at Disneyland, and said his agency shouldn't use wait times as a measure of success because Disney doesn't either." (Sarah Westwood, "VA Secretary: Disney Doesn't Measure Wait Times, So Why Should VA?" Washington Examiner , 5/23/16)

  • "When You Go To Disney, Do They Measure The Number Of Hours You Wait In A Line? Or What's Important? What's Important Is, What's Your Satisfaction With The Experience?" "'When you got to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what's important? What's important is, what's your satisfaction with the experience?' McDonald said Monday during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with reporters." (Sarah Westwood, "VA Secretary: Disney Doesn't Measure Wait Times, So Why Should VA?" Washington Examiner , 5/23/16)

SECRETARY MCDONALD HAS BEEN PRAISED BY CLINTON, WHO IS ALSO KNOWN FOR DOWNPLAYING CONCERNS OVER THE VA

Clinton Praised Secretary McDonald's Performance, Saying He's "Doing A Great Job"

Clinton: "I Think Secretary McDonald Is Doing A Great Job…" CLINTON: "I think Secretary McDonald is doing a great job, but there is a lot more that needs to be done." (Hillary Clinton, Remarks At A Campaign Event, 11/10/15)

Click To Watch

McDonald's Name Is Even Being Floated As Clinton's Vice President Nominee

Sidewire's Jonathan Allen: McDonald "Ought To Be In the Mix" And His Combination Of Experience As A Chief Executive Would Make Him Ready To Take Over The Presidency At A Moment's Notice." "McDonald ought to be in the mix. The most important factor in selecting a running mate should be his or her readiness to take over the presidency at a moment's notice. McDonald's combination of experience as a chief executive at the elite levels of both the private and public sectors recommend him for that task." (Jonathan Allen, Op-Ed, "Clinton Should Consider VA Secretary Bob McDonald For VP," Roll Call, 5/19/16)

  • When McDonald Was A Top Executive At Proctor & Gamble, P&G Helped Fund Clinton's State Department Pavilion At The Shanghai Expo In 2010, And In 2012 Clinton Handed McDonald An Award For Corporate Excellence. "When McDonald was a top executive, P&G helped fund the Clinton State Department's pavilion at the Shanghai Expo in 2010, and the company committed $3 million to purifying drinking water in East Africa through the Clinton Global Initiative. And at a State Department ceremony honoring P&G in 2012, Clinton handed McDonald an Award for Corporate Excellence." (Jonathan Allen, Op-Ed, "Clinton Should Consider VA Secretary Bob McDonald For VP," Roll Call, 5/19/16)

Last Year, Clinton Made The Outlandish Claim That The VA Scandal Plaguing Our Nation's Veterans Was Not "As Widespread As It Has Been Made Out To Be" And Defended The Agency When Confronted By A Veteran

Clinton Said The VA Scandal Has "Not Been As Widespread As It Has Been Made Out To Be ." CLINTON: "Yeah, and I don't understand that. You know, I don't understand why we have such a problem, because there have been a number of surveys of veterans, and overall, veterans who do get treated are satisfied with their treatment. Now…" MSNBC'S RACHEL MADDOW: "Much more so than people in the regular system." CLINTON: "That's exactly right." MADDOW: "Yeah. Right." CLINTON: "Now, nobody would believe that from the coverage that you see, and the constant berating of the VA that comes from the Republicans, in part in pursuit of this ideological agenda that they have." MADDOW: "But in part because there has been real scandal." CLINTON: "There has been. And - but it's not been as widespread as it has been made out to be." (MSNBC's " The Rachel Maddow Show," 10/23/15)

  • Clinton Accused Republicans Of "Constant Berating Of The V.A. That Comes From The Republicans, In Part In Pursuit Of This Ideological Agenda…" CLINTON: "Now, nobody would believe that from the coverage that you see, and the constant berating of the V.A. that comes from the Republicans, in part in pursuit of this ideological agenda that they have." (MSNBC's " The Rachel Maddow Show," 10/23/15)

Click To Watch

Through A Spokesman, Clinton Refused To Apologize For Her Remarks. "'Republicans are trying to suggest the only solution to the VA's problems is to privatize it, but Hillary Clinton will not apologize for insisting on doing the hard work to reform the VA, rather than ending it altogether,' [Clinton campaign Press Secretary Brian] Fallon said." (Ben Kelsing, "Republicans Take Aim at Hillary Clinton For VA Remarks," The Wall Street Journal, 10/28/15)

Told Directly By A Veteran Who Has Been Waiting Six Years On A Disability Claim About Delays, Clinton Defended The VA, Saying "We've Made A Little Progress In The Last Year Or Two Processing Claims…" VETERAN: "I was very glad to hear you talk about New Hampshire not having a full service hospital. First of all, a lot of us have been fighting that for many years, many years. Secondly, as a Vietnam veteran who filed a claim for an increase in my service connected disability six years ago and it's still pending. I was at the V.A. medical center yesterday for my fourth examination. Six years and it's still going on, I tell people this on the outside and they think I'm crazy. They say how can the V.A. take six years to process a claim? I say well I'll show you the facts, so I'm very happy to hear you talk about those two things for sure." CLINTON: "Well, I want to…We've made a little progress in the last year or two processing claims, we still have a big backlog as you know personally. And we're getting an increasing backlog in appeals from denials or only partial approvals. I think we need a kind of, all hands on deck program, where I'd be working with VSOs and others. Let's recruit people who have some accounting, some legal, some other experience, and let's put them to work on this." (Hillary Clinton, Remarks At A Campaign Event, 11/10/15)

Click To Watch

WHILE MCDONALD MAKES LIGHT OF WAIT TIMES AND CLINTON DOWNPLAYS THE PROBLEMS FACING OUR VETERANS, THE VA REMAINS PLAUGED WITH PROBLEMS

VA Facilities Across The Country Continue To Be Plagued With Wait Times That Are Increasing Significantly For Our Country's Veterans

NPR Headline: "Despite $10B 'Fix,' Veterans Are Waiting Even Longer To See Doctors." (Eric Whitney and Michael Tomsic, "Despite $10B 'Fix,' Veterans Are Waiting Even Longer To See Doctors," NPR, 5/16/16)

  • "Wait Times Have Gotten Worse- Not Better. Compared With This Time Last Year [May 2015], There Are 70,000 More Appointments That Tooke Vets At Least A Month To Be Seen." "Wait times have gotten worse - not better. Compared with this time last year, there are 70,000 more appointments that took vets at least a month to be seen." (Eric Whitney and Michael Tomsic, "Despite $10B 'Fix,' Veterans Are Waiting Even Longer To See Doctors," NPR, 5/16/16)

USA Today Headline: "VA Hasn't Fixed Wait-Time Problems, GAO Finds." (Donovan Slack, "VA Hasn't Fixed Wait-Time Problems, GAO Finds" USA Today, 4/18/16)

According To A Recent GAO Report, The VA Has "Not Done Enough To Prevent Schedulers From Manipulating Appointment Wait Times" As "Data Remains Misleading And Underestimates How Long Veterans Wait For Care." "The Department of Veterans Affairs has not done enough to prevent schedulers from manipulating appointment wait times, and wait-time data remains misleading and underestimates how long veterans wait for care, according to a nonpartisan watchdog report released Monday." (Donovan Slack, "VA Hasn't Fixed Wait-Time Problems, GAO Finds," USA Today, 4/18/16)

While The System Showed That Average Wait Times Were Between 4 and 28 Days, The Actual Averages Were Between 11 and 48 days. "While the system showed average wait times of between four and 28 days in the cases reviewed, the actual averages were between 11 and 48 days. The audit characterized the schedulers' actions as mistakes rather than deliberate falsification." (Donovan Slack, "VA Hasn't Fixed Wait-Time Problems, GAO Finds," USA Today, 4/18/16)

GAO Auditors Found 25% Of Appointments Were Improperly Scheduled And 3 Of 6 Medical Centers Had Improperly Changed Dates To Show Shorter Or Zero Wait Times. "Auditors found schedulers at three of the six medical centers they reviewed had improperly changed dates so the VA system falsely showed shorter or zero wait times. In a review of scheduling records for 60 individual veterans at those three centers, they found improper scheduling in 15 - or 25% - of the appointments." (Donovan Slack, "VA Hasn't Fixed Wait-Time Problems, GAO Finds," USA Today, 4/18/16)

Last Month, VA Bosses In 7 States Told Employees To Falsify Vets' Wait Times For Care

VA Supervisors Told Employees To Falsify Patient Wait Times At VA Medical Facilities In At Least 7 States. "Supervisors instructed employees to falsify patient wait times at Veterans Affairs' medical facilities in at least seven states, according to a USA TODAY analysis of more than 70 investigation reports released in recent weeks." (Donovan Slack, "VA Bosses In 7 States Falsified Vets' Wait Times For Care," USA Today, 4/7/16)

  • Employees At 40 Medical Facilities In 19 States And Puerto Rico Regularly "Zeroed Out" Veteran Wait Times, Revealing "Widespread Scheduling Manipulation." "Overall, those reports - released after multiple inquiries and a Freedom of Information Act request - reveal for the first time specifics of widespread scheduling manipulation. Employees at 40 VA medical facilities in 19 states and Puerto Rico regularly "zeroed out" veteran wait times, the analysis shows. In some cases, investigators found manipulation had been going on for as long as a decade. In others, it had been just a few years." (Donovan Slack, "VA Bosses In 7 States Falsified Vets' Wait Times For Care," USA Today, 4/7/16)

An Internal Department Of Veterans Affairs Investigation Found That Schedulers Routinely Misreported When Patients Actually Wanted To See A Doctor Or Receive Care, Making It Impossible To Track Delays. "An internal Department of Veterans Affairs investigation found that schedulers in Texas routinely misreported when patients actually wanted to see a doctor or get some other type of care, making it impossible to track delays in the care they received." (Will Weissert, "Internal VA Report Finds Misleading Wait Time Data In Texas," The Associated Press , 3/10/16)

  • Schedulers Were Using The First Available Date As The Patients' Desired Date When Making Appointments. "Investigation revealed that MAS and non-MAS schedulers were using the first available date as the patients' desired date when making appointments for VA medical care." ("Administrative Summary Of Investigation By The VA Office Of Inspector General In Response To Allegations Regarding Patient Wait Times," VA Office Of Inspector General, 3/8/16)
  • One Employee Said That A Former Supervisor Threatened To Fire Her If She Did Not Make Wait Times Equal To Zero. "A supervisor at COPAC Kerrville stated that, from 2007 to March 2014, she and other schedulers were taught to make the patient's desired date the first available date by "going out (of the VistA scheduling system) and going back in." She stated a former VA supervisor threatened to fire her if she did not make the wait times equal zero." ("Administrative Summary Of Investigation By The VA Office Of Inspector General In Response To Allegations Regarding Patient Wait Times," VA Office Of Inspector General, 3/8/16)

In October 2015, It Was Reported That The Phoenix VA Was Still Encountering Wait Time Problems

"Despite Billions Of Extra Dollars Poured Into The Agency In The Last Year And Numerous Reforms Intended To Improve Veterans' Access To Care … Some VA Facilities Continue To Grapple With Appointment Wait Times Of Months Or More." "Despite billions of extra dollars poured into the agency in the last year and numerous reforms intended to improve veterans' access to care, whistleblowers and internal documents obtained by CNN reveal some VA facilities continue to grapple with appointment wait times of months or more." (Drew Griffin, Nelli Black, Scott Bronstein and Curt Devine, "Veterans Still Facing Major Medical Delays At VA Hospitals," CNN, 10/20/15)

Even The Notorious Phoenix VA Center Is Continuing To Have "Complicated Wait-Time Calculations" And Appointment Delays. ""Even at the Phoenix VA medical center, where CNN learned last year 'secret' appointment lists were hiding how veterans were dying waiting for care, sources say complicated wait-time calculations obscure ongoing appointment delays." (Drew Griffin, Nelli Black, Scott Bronstein and Curt Devine, "Veterans Still Facing Major Medical Delays At VA Hospitals," CNN, 10/20/15)

  • Source: "The Reality Is Veterans Are Waiting Months -- Three, Six Months At A Time, Sometimes More -- For Care At The Phoenix VA." "'The reality is veterans are waiting months -- three, six months at a time, sometimes more -- for care at the Phoenix VA,' said one source in Phoenix who agreed to speak to CNN anonymously because of fears of retaliation." (Drew Griffin, Nelli Black, Scott Bronstein and Curt Devine, "Veterans Still Facing Major Medical Delays At VA Hospitals," CNN, 10/20/15)
  • Cancer Patients Died Waiting For Care At The Phoenix Hospital And Medical Treatment Was Delayed For Nearly 1,500 Veterans Due To "Short-Staffing And Mismanagement Of Urology Care." "Some patients with bladder and prostate cancer died waiting for care, and medical treatment for almost 1,500 others was delayed because of short-staffing and mismanagement of urology care at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix, a new investigation has found." (Lisa Rein, "Cancer Patients Died Waiting For Care At Troubled Veterans' Hospital, Probe Finds," The Washington Post , 10/20/15)

As Many As 300,000 Veterans May Have Died Waiting For Care At VA Facilities

CNN Headline: "307,000 Veterans May Have Died Awaiting Veterans Affairs Health Care, Report Says" (Curt Devine, "307,000 Veterans May Have Died Awaiting Veterans Affairs Health Care, Report Says," CNN, 9/3/15)

According To An Inspector General Report, "Hundreds Of Thousands Of Veterans Listed In The Department Of Veterans Affairs Enrollment System Died Before Their Applications For Care Were Processed." "Hundreds of thousands of veterans listed in the Department of Veterans Affairs enrollment system died before their applications for care were processed, according to a report issued Wednesday. The VA's inspector general found that out of about 800,000 records stalled in the agency's system for managing health care enrollment, there were more than 307,000 records that belonged to veterans who had died months or years in the past. The inspector general said due to limitations in the system's data, the number of records did not necessarily represent veterans actively seeking enrollment in VA health care." (Curt Devine, "307,000 Veterans May Have Died Awaiting Veterans Affairs Health Care, Report Says," CNN, 9/3/15)

  • "The VA's Inspector General Found That Out Of About 800,000 Records Stalled In The Agency's System For Managing Health Care Enrollment, There Were More Than 307,000 Records That Belonged To Veterans Who Had Died Months Or Years In The Past." (Curt Devine, "307,000 Veterans May Have Died Awaiting Veterans Affairs Health Care, Report Says," CNN, 9/3/15)

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