You are on page 1of 3
rere GS. House of Representatives SESS ven Sh atti. ‘COMMITTEE ON VETERANS’ AFFAIRS See ea (ONE HUNDRED FOURTEENTH CONGRESS 225 Carwin House Orrice BRO oon rms Wasiicron, DC 20515, Intpuveteransnouse gov March 14, 2016 Chairperson Nancy M. Schlichting ‘Commission on Care 1575 I Street, NW Suite 240 Washington, DC 20005 Dear Chairperson Schlichting, Lam writing regarding recent attempts by Commission on Care member Phillip Longman to spread blatantly false propaganda in an attempt to minimize the wait-time scandal at the department of Veterans Affairs. As you may know, Longman is a senior editor of the publication Washington Monthly, which recently published an article entitled “The VA isn’t Broken Yet.” -' In conversations with another Washington Monthly editor, my staff confirmed that Longman was involved in editing the aforementioned piece. This is troubling on a number of levels, as the article in question contains a number of completely false statements about the nature and severity of VA's wait- time scandal, As you can see from the examples included below, Longman either believes the article’s false claims, or he ~ as an editor of the piece — signed off on them knowing they were untrue. In either case, I would caution you and all other Commission on Care members to take anything Longman says with an extremely large grain of salt. For instance, the Longman-edited article states: “Then, on April 9, 2014, at a hearing in the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Representative Miller dropped the bomb. He announced that his staff had been quietly investigating the VA hospital in Phoenix and had made a shocking discovery: some local VA officials had altered or destroyed records to hide evidence of lengthy wait times for appointments, And worse, Miller claimed, as many as forty veterans could have died while waiting for care. “This latter charge guaranteed screaming headlines from the likes of CNN, but was later shown to be unsubstantiated.” The highlighted portion above is simply not true, according to the VA Inspector General's Aug. 26, 2014, report - 7, which states, “From our review of PVAHCS electronic records, we were able to identify 40 patients who died while on the EWL during the period April 2013 through April 2014.” In reality, there were 293 total patient deaths among Phoenix-area veterans on various official and unofficial lists, according to the enclosed figures from the VA Inspector General, which ‘were not included in its final report on Phoenix but were widely reported in the media. There are also major issues with this passage of the Longman-edited piece because it references VA scheduling data from June 9, 2014, that was inherently flawed and therefore unreliable: “in most VA facilities, wait times for established patients to see a primary care doc or a specialist were in the range of two to four days....For the VA system as a whole, 96 percent of patients received appointments within thirty days.” Contrary to what Longmen would have you believe, the IG’s Aug. 26, 2014, report found that, “Inappropriate scheduling practices are a nationwide systemic problem.” The IG also noted, “the ‘breakdown of the ethics system within VHA contributed significantly to the questioning of the reliability of VHA’s reported wait time data. VHA’s audit, directed by the former VA Secretary in May 2014 following numerous allegations, also found that inappropriate scheduling practices ‘were a systemic problem nationwide.” What this means is that VA’s scheduling data from around that time is not to be trusted because it is likely inaccurate ‘And the below passage from the Longman-edited article is completely false, representing either a deliberate attempt to mislead or a failure to grasp even the most basic understanding of VA’s struggles with wait time manipulation. “In short, there was no fundamental problem at the VA with wait times, in Phoenix or anywhere else.” Actually, there was a fundamental problem at VA with wait times and delayed care, and that is the reason the Commission on Care exists. | find it ridiculous that I have to waste time pointing these sorts of details out, however, it is important that the truth be told. Consider the facts: According to a May 22, 2014, USA Today article, “Delays in endoscopy screenings for potential gastrointestinal cancer in 76 veterans treated at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals are linked to 23 deaths...” > According to a Feb. 24, 2016, article in USA Today, “After the Veterans A fiairs wait-time scandal erupted nearly two years ago, the department's chief watchdog investigated 73 VA facilities across the country and found scheduling problems in 51 cases.” -* ‘According to a Sept. 17, 2014, New York Times article, a senior VA Inspector General official acknowledged during congressional testimony that “...delays in care had contributed to the deaths of patients at the department’s medical center in Phoenix.” - 5 And as referenced above, according to the VA Inspector General’s Aug, 26, 2014, report, inappropriate scheduling and wait-time issues were present not only in Phoenix, they were systemic across VA. You can’t solve problems by denying they exist. Further, attempts by anyone to minimize the VA scandal are quite simply a slap in the face to the many veterans who suffered from it. It's unfortunate that some Commission on Care members aren't familiar with these simple concepts. Please do not allow their ignorance and or bias to influence the important work you are doing. Ce: Vice Chairperson Delos M. (Toby) Cosgrove, MD. CIMjt ' Available at: htip://washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/marchaprilmay_2016/features/the_va_isnt_broken_yet 059847.php?page=5 ? Available at: http://www.va.gov/oig/pubs/V AOIG-14-02603-267.pdf 3 Available at: htip://www.usatoday.com/story/nation/2014/04/08/va-cancer-treatment-deaths- delay-veterans-hospitals/7457255/ 4 Available at: htip://www.usatoday.com/story/news/polities/2016/02/24/va-inspector-general- wait-time-investigation-results/80632212/ 5 Available at: http://www.nytimes.cony/2014/09/18/us/va-officials-acknowledge-link-between- delays-and-patient-deaths, him