November 23, 2015, by Brooke Chaplan – Scandal, incompetence, and corruption have plagued the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) since its creation after World War I. From denying promised payments to veterans, to providing subpar or even non-existent medical care leading to unnecessary deaths, the VA has a blemished history regarding its mission to serve American veterans. The following are examples of the worst failures of the VA.
Lengthy Waits and Inadequate Medical Care
Scores of veterans have died from preventable causes throughout the history of the VA. A notable few include:
• Six veterans who died while waiting for colorectal screenings in Columbia, SC.
• Three patients who died while waiting for treatment for gastrointestinal diseases in Augusta, GA. The hospital reportedly had a waiting list for more than 4,500 patients.
• Five veterans who died of Legionnaires’ disease in Oakland, PA. due to unsanitary conditions in the VA hospital dating to 2007.
• Four veterans who died waiting for follow-up care for mental illness in Atlanta.
Many veterans today are turning to personal injury lawyers to get compensation for negligence and malpractice. Some firms like Pritzker Law even specialize in helping veterans and know how to cut through the red tape of federal regulations that make it difficult to file a claim.
In May of 2014, VA director Eric Shinseki resigned after a lengthy investigation revealed the VA hospital in Phoenix intentionally misrepresented the amount of time veterans had to wait for doctor appointments. Almost 40 patients died while waiting for care that was backlogged for months. The cover up concerning patient backlogs also occurred in hospitals in San Antonio, Cheyenne, and Charlotte, NC.
VA director Robert Nimmo resigned in 1982 after downplaying the significant health risks posed by the use of the chemical Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. He was also accused of wasteful spending by using a chauffeured car and misappropriating funds to lavishly redecorate his office.
In 1984, Congress uncovered evidence that VA officials had refused to spend or diverted over $40 million in funds earmarked for helping displaced Vietnam veterans.
Refusal to Pay Promised Benefits
After the Revolutionary War, Congress promised payments for disabled veterans to be paid by the states and very few veterans received any payment at all. In 1932, upwards of 10,000 World War I veterans protested in Washington to demand promised war bonus payments. Federal troops were called in to forcibly disperse the veterans who refused to leave.
Is Reform on the Horizon?
After the 2014 scandal, Congress has been working on several pieces of legislation to make the VA more accountable for its failures, such as rescinding bonuses and punishing workers involved in cover-ups, but the bills have been mired in partisan politics and Constitutional challenges. Hopefully veterans can look forward to more good changes in the future.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.