Doctor At Phoenix VA Hearing: Report Is A ‘Whitewash’

Doctor At Phoenix VA Hearing: Report Is A ‘Whitewash’

Scheduling Manipulation and Veteran Deaths in Phoenix: Examination of the OIG’s Final Report

House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, 334 Cannon House Office Building Washington, D.C. — September 17, 2014

The doctor who made the first allegations of the deaths of veteran patients who were on waiting lists at the Phoenix VA Health System, Samuel H. Foote, told a Phoenix VA hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee that the VA inspector general’s report into the wait times scandal in Phoenix was a “whitewash” that failed to take seriously the life-threatening treatment of veterans by senior patients at the Arizona facility.

Foote, a former clinic director for the Phoenix VA, said the IG’s report appears designed to “minimize the scandal and protect its perpetrators rather than to provide the truth.”

At best, “this report is a whitewash,” Foote told the House Veterans Affairs Committee. “At its worst, it is a feeble attempt at a cover-up. The report deliberately uses confusing language and math, invents new unrealistic standards of proof … and makes misleading statements.”

Foote began making his allegations in 2013, which then exploded earlier this year into a full-blown crisis for the agency and uncovered systemic wrongdoing and scheduling practices at VA hospitals and clinics nationwide.

The inspector general’s report, released on August 26, said his office could not prove conclusively that any of the veteran deaths in Phoenix were caused by in ability to access care and the scheduling scandal. This assertion was the root of today’s hearing on Capitol Hill, which pitted the VA’s Acting Inspector General, Richard Griffin, against Foote and another medical director for the Phoenix VA, Katherine Mitchell, both considered whistleblowers of poor care and mismanagement in Phoenix.

The Phoenix VA hearing, which you can view below, did produce one concession by Dr. John Daigh, assistant inspector general for healthcare inspections at the VA. Daigh, under intense questioning, did assert that the inability for those veterans who were unable to access timely care likely was a contributing factor in their deaths, just not the sole cause of death.

Here’s a list of those testifying on each of the panel’s at today’s Phoenix VA hearing:

Panel One

  • Richard J. Griffin, Acting Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs
  • John D. Daigh, Jr., M.D. Assistant Inspector General for Healthcare Inspections Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Samuel H. Foote, M.D., Retired Medical Director, Diamond Community-Based Outpatient Center, Phoenix VA Health Care System
  • Katherine L. Mitchell, M.D. Medical Director, Iraq and Afghanistan Post-Deployment Center, Phoenix VA Health Care System

Panel Two

  • The Honorable Robert A. McDonald, Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs

Panel Three

  • Lisa Thomas, PhD, Chief of Staff, Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs