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The Veterans Affairs scandal: It only grows

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Monday, May 12, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The news only gets worse for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA is engulfed in a conflagration over growing allegations of substandard care nationwide. And, worse, the evidence is growing, exponentially, that the standard operating procedure of VA officials was to obfuscate if not lie.

The latest disquieting evidence comes in a two-part Trib investigation into just one part of the scandal — the fatal outbreak of Legionnaires' disease at two Pittsburgh-area VA hospitals that killed at least six and sickened 16 others.

To classify this as a series of “communication breakdowns” would be a disservice to the phrase. For, repeatedly, the facts said one thing while VA officials' testimony before Congress said pretty much the exact opposite.

Internal emails and other documents show that superheating water in an attempt to kill Legionella bacteria did not work. But a VA official said it did. Testing for the bacteria was spotty at best. But a VA official said otherwise. An improperly operated water-disinfection system was not disclosed to Congress. And there was early talk among VA officials of trying to keep the outbreak quiet, complete with a number of officials doing what they could to cover their behinds.

Given the totality of the VA's problems that extend far beyond Pittsburgh, reasonable people are left to conclude that the Department of Veterans Affairs is a broken, if not corrupt, enterprise. And Congress and the legal system must respond accordingly.

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