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Petzel Forced Out At VA Over Waiting List Corruption

VA Secretary Mike Shenseki hanging on at VA
May 16, 2014

Under Secretary for Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs Dr. Robert Petzel has resigned after giving upbeat testimony Thursday to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki accepted Petzel’s resignation. “As we know from the Veteran community,” he said in a statement, “most Veterans are satisfied with the quality of their VA health care, but we must do more to improve timely access to that care.”

UPDATE: Petzel did not resign over the waiting list corruption scandal.

End of update.

Petzel before the Senate Thursday went further than that.

Petzel: “Everybody needs to remember that we do 85 thousand — 85 million outpatient visit every year. 95% of those visits are with established patients, and those are all accomplished within 14 days.”

Obviously, Dr. Petzel has resigned, and is in no position to defend himself. But how did he know that all of those outpatient visits were accomplished in 14 days? The entire scandal is exactly that VA personnel have been saying they were hitting their numbers — perhaps because that’s what their bureaucratic incentives told them to do — and that higher-ups believed them.

Or at least the higher ups have claimed to believe them. Multiple news accounts of waiting list manipulation and similar corruption have come out about the VA over the past several years. On May 21, 2013, for instance House Veterans’ Affairs committee chair Rep Jeff Miller wrote to President Obama,
about an “alarming pattern of serious and significant patient care issues at Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers (VAMCS) across the country.”

“Because these issues are long-standing, systemic, and apparently immune to the current structure of accountability within VA,” Miller continued, “I believe your direct involvement and leadership is required.”

As Pete Kasperowicz put it at The Blaze,

The VA has come under fire for revelations that some employees purposefully gamed the data on veterans’ wait times at health clinics to make it look like they did not have to wait very long for a health appointment. But in many cases it took months, and the department has admitted that these long wait times contributed to the death of around 40 veterans.