by Sarah Schauerte
Last week, the news of veterans dying while waiting for health care at the VA’s Phoenix medical center outraged the nation. Now, a clerk at another medical center has come forward with a similar, equally horrifying story.
Brian Turner, a clerk at a VA medical center in San Antonio, was tasked with making sure that veterans received their health appointments in a timely fashion. According to Turner, he was told to “fudge the numbers” to meet the VA’s own national timeline goal of setting an appointment within 14 days of the veteran’s desired appointment date. He was told to schedule the appointments in “actual” time – months in advance, but not put the veteran in the system. This was called “zeroing out” that date – this way, there would be no record of the medical center not meeting its goals.
The VA’s Public Affairs Office has claimed that Turner’s claims were investigated from April 25th through April 28th and were found to be “not substantiated.” In an interview with CNN, however, Turner noted that the VA never even approached him to speak with him about his allegations. He was also admonished to stop emailing his concerns to VA personnel. CNN’s own requests for interviews with the VA on this subject have been ignored.
After the scandal in Phoenix hit the news waves, two of the largest veterans organizations called for the resignation of Eric Shinseki, the Secretary of the VA. One of these is the American Legion, which has not called for the resignation of a VA Secretary in thirty years. Two United States Senators also called for his resignation. While President Obama has publicly reinforced his belief in Shinseki’s abilities to lead the VA, CNN and members of Congress have attempted to interview Shinseki to no avail. In fact, they have been attempting to interview him on similar topics for over six months.
Where is Shinseki? Why has CNN been asking him for interviews for six months with no response? Why isn’t he coming forward to address these issues that are literally costing the lives of the veterans he is tasked to protect?
These aren’t rhetorical questions. Shinseki and these other senior officials at the VA need to be held accountable.
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Phoenix VA Medical Center