The failure of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, VA, to regulate its health division has stayed in the news, yet nothing seems to be done about it. The latest example, Long Island Veterans Hospital, of that failure was reported by the New York Times on September 19, 2016.
The Northport VA Medical Center, located on Long Island in New York, has been reported for abuse, billing fraud, and even the failure to report a patient’s death for months after it occurred. In February, operating rooms were closed because of debris falling from the air ducts. Veterans were forced to either wait until the issue was handled or go to other VA medical centers for treatment that required surgery. The closing of those rooms initiated a collection of data from Northport VA medical center whistleblowers and other reports relating widespread corruption and abuse in the center by a member of the Congressional House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
The New York Times reported that whistleblowers and others had reported telephone billing fraud schemes where nurses were told to contact veterans and then code the calls as if the veteran had initiated the contact so that dollars from the Federal government could be collected for those contacts. Nurses earned compensation time rather than pay for the overtime they spent making those calls. The committee was also supposedly looking at a death of a VA employee, who was a veteran and was provided treatment at the center, was not reported until two months later, even though he was found on facility grounds and his care continued to be documented and billed.
As a result of the above issues and others raised, a public hearing was held on September 20 at the facility. According to the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs website, testimony included two witnesses accompanied by each of their counterparts and centered on praising the center’s services and testifying to its ongoing commitment to providing “quality” care, to urging a partnership between private providers and VA Medical Centers. The hearing did not address the rampant corruption, abuse, and fraud in any way during the hearing. In short, the hearing basically let all allegations slide and centered on how to improve care.
The VHA was initiated during the civil war to care for Union Civil War veterans. Since World War I, the VHA has grown to operate facilities in every state. On its website, the Veterans Health Administration, states that it “continues to meet Veteran’s changing medical, surgical and quality-of-life needs … it is one of the largest health care systems in the works and provides training for a majority of America’s medical, nursing and allied health professionals”.
It is apparent the our VA health care system has become a part of the rich health care industry and is more concerned with dollars than with providing our Veterans the care that they need and deserve. The issues related to fraud, corruption and substandard treatment of our veterans are not being addressed! It is long overdue for that to change, and the only way to do that is for American’s to speak out, advocate and hold those in charge responsible.