VA whistleblower Dr Sam Foote appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace today, saying that VA Secretary Shinseki should not be forced out now, but should continue after the realization that the bureaucracy has been lying to him and lying to the public for years. The bureaucracy’s incentive is to lie, because they can make their numbers appear to be anything they want, according to Foote.
The VA made a public show of the resignation of Under Secretary for Health Robert Petzel Friday, but Petzel had already announced his resignation, and his successor had been named long before Petzel’s disastrous testimony to the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs Thursday.
“Petzel should have been forced out after the debacle in Pittsburgh with the Legionella in Pittsburgh,” said Foote, “and it’s a great first step to finally get rid of him because he’s been felt to be the chief cover-up artist at the VA for a very long time.”
“This is a guy who certainly at some point in his career knew how to take names,” Foote continued, “knew how to kick butt when he needed to, and hold people accountable. That’s the guy we need in there, not the guy who has sort of sit back and let Dr. Petzel run everything. It was obvious from the hearings he was blindsided multiple times on multiple issues.”
“I think for right now,” noted Foote, “if we switch the Secretaries, then the focus will get away from fixing the problem to who is the new Secretary going to be, and then he’ll have 3- or a 6- or a 9-month grace period because he’s the new guy. I think our best bet at this point is to the Secretary on board, but I think the President needs to keep him on a pretty short leash, and be sure that he’s doing his job.”
“They’ve been cheating about his for a very long time.” Foote referred to a memo in an April 26, 2010 memo from William Schoenhard, Deputy Undersecretary for Health Operations and Management.
An eight-page attachment identifies 24 “tricks” detected so far, but Schoenhard says there may be more.
According to a contempoary blog post on the site Alternet.org, the 2010 memo,
…[A]lerts supervisors overseeing scheduling in the nation’s largest health care system that he has learned of unacceptable practices. VA facilities have adopted what he calls “gaming strategies” in order to “improve scores on various access measures” by diminishing patient access to treatment.
An eight-page attachment identifies 24 “tricks” detected so far, but Schoenhard says there may be more. Using fine-print rules to cancel patients’ appointments is one of the more sinister strategies that Schoenhard describes. Here, a patient arrives on time for an appointment only to be told he has no appointment. When the patient shows the employee his/her appointment form, the employee shows the patient the fine print on the form, which says that patients who do not come 10 (sometimes 15) minutes early to check in risk cancellation.
“They knew this was a big problem,” Foote continued, “but here’s the thing: if the numbers for Phoenix look good, then .. then numbers for Veterans Integrated Services Network 18 look good, and when Congress asks the VA for their national numbers they all look good, so there’s no real incentive on the part of the upper management in Washington to get accurate numbers.”