200 veterans die waiting for care as troubled Phoenix VA builds new backlog

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By Stephen Dinan – The Washington Times

The Phoenix Veterans Affairs office is still improperly canceling veterans’ appointments, has built up a new backlog of cases — and at least one veteran is likely dead because of it, the department’s inspector general said in a new report Tuesday.

Two years after they first sounded the alarm about secret waiting lists leaving veterans struggling for care at the Phoenix VA, investigators said some services have improved, and they cleared the clinic of allegations that top officials ordered staff to cancel appointments.

But confusion and bureaucratic bungling are still prevalent, some veterans are waiting a half-year or longer for treatment, and staff are still canceling appointments for questionable reasons.

More than 200 veterans died while waiting for appointments in 2015, and investigators said at least one veteran would likely have been saved if the clinic had gone ahead with his consultation.

“This patient never received an appointment for a cardiology exam that could have prompted further definitive testing and interventions that could have forestalled his death,” the inspector general said.

The VA is still reeling from an initial 2014 report that found top executives cooked their books, canceling appointments and shifting others onto secret wait lists to try to make their backlogs appear less drastic, hoping to earn performance bonuses.

 

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