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The corrupt VA

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

A new internal audit appallingly finds long delays in getting Department of Veterans Affairs medical care affecting 100,000 veterans nationwide — delays that VA staffers, motivated by perverse job-performance incentives, hid from higher-ups, patients and Congress while vets died awaiting appointments. That moves this scandal beyond administrative failure to a matter requiring criminal investigation.

Reviewing 731 VA hospitals and clinics, auditors scheduled one out of three — including facilities in Oakland, Altoona and Erie — for reinspection due to their “scheduling and access management practices.” Irregular alternatives to the official Electronic Wait List were found at 70 percent of inspected facilities. Auditors say employees were pressured to keep long, real wait lists secret so it appeared the VA was meeting its 14-day appointment scheduling goal, on which job performance reviews partly depended.

The VA is doing away with that 14-day goal. And while there's plenty else for the agency and Congress to fix, accountability is crucial, too. House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., wants the Justice Department to investigate, saying this audit is “more disturbing proof that corruption is ingrained in many parts of the VA health care system.”

Indeed, the misconduct that this audit documents provides ample reason to label the VA a corrupt criminal enterprise. That's how the VA deserves to be investigated — and how those who are culpable deserve to be held accountable.

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