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Veterans Affairs shame: Clean this house

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Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).

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Saturday, April 26, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

Pittsburgh — where a Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Department of Veterans Affairs health-care facilities killed six veterans and sickened at least 22 — isn't the only place where the VA has betrayed its sacred mission. In Phoenix, top VA managers allegedly countenanced a scheme hiding year-plus waits for doctor's appointments; at least 40 veterans died awaiting care.

Internal VA emails and information from a newly retired 24-year VA physician detailing these appalling allegations were confirmed by other Phoenix VA staffers, according to CNN. Dr. Sam Foote says the Phoenix VA maintained both a sham waiting list sent to VA officials in Washington, showing veterans getting appointments within 14 to 30 days, and a real, hidden list compiled from computer printouts that then were shredded.

He estimates 1,400 to 1,600 veterans were on that hidden list. And emails show the Phoenix VA director even defended that list's use.

This is the latest of too many scandals for Veterans Affairs and its malfeasance worsens each time word of another breaks. That's indicative of an embedded culture at odds with the VA's mission, begging the question of what it will take to fix the agency.

Only a top-to-bottom overhaul — eradicating both disservice that threatens veterans' lives and pervasive aversion to accountability — can rectify the disgraceful, too often fatal, mess that is the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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