Veterans news update for Oct. 21

Veterans news update for Oct. 21

Veterans news updateVA misled public, veterans on health care backlog (Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Senior VA officials pushed untrue and misleading information to veterans, the public and Congress to blunt a potential scandal involving a backlog of hundreds of thousands of applications for access to VA health care, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation has found. The misinformation came from top officials at the VA’s national Health Eligibility Center (HEC) in Atlanta and senior officials in Washington, and contradicted what the VA’s staff was reporting to their superiors about the application backlog. The officials misrepresented data to downplay the number of veterans waiting for a health enrollment decision from VA. They tried to assert that many of the veterans in the backlog had not actually applied for healthcare when internal documents showed those statements to be false. The findings come as new VA Secretary Robert McDonald is trying to restore credibility to a beleaguered agency tarnished by long waits for veterans at VA health facilities, mismanagement and retaliation against whistleblowers.

Phoenix VA hospital fails outside compliance review (Arizona Republic)
The Department of Veterans Affairs health-care system in Phoenix does not comply with U.S. standards for safety, patient care and management, according to a non-profit organization that reviews medical facilities nationwide. In findings published online, The Joint Commission says Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center failed a July inspection in 13 quality-control categories. Experts who conducted the review in July found that Phoenix administrators did not maintain a “safe, functional environment” or “a culture of safety and quality.” They concluded that the hospital does not have adequate policies and procedures to “guide and support patient care, treatment and services.” The inspectors also determined that VA employees were unable to report concerns “without retaliatory action from the hospital.”

Fresh combat in Iraq, Syria, stirs veterans’ emotions (Green Bay Press-Gazette)
As the American military and its partners engage in airborne combat in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State, one area mental heath expert said he’s hearing frustration from veterans who served in the war in Iraq. “The most current theme I’m hearing from veterans, over the last two or three months, is their emotional reaction to watching the news,” said Dr. Michael McBride, the local recovery coordinator, mental heath division, with the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs in Milwaukee. “The ISIS takeover, the beheadings, those things have a real profound effect on veterans, especially those who have fought in those regions.”

Veteran dies after do-not-resuscitate error at Sacramento VA (KXTV-Sacramento)
The Veterans Administration confirmed that a “do not resuscitate” armband was mistakenly placed on a patient who died following surgery Friday at the Sacramento VA Medical Center, but insisted the error was not fatal. Family members identified the patient as Roland Mayo, 65, a Vietnam veteran and former Riverside County deputy sheriff and marshal. Delania Mayo Kenton, the youngest of Mayo’s three grown children, said her father was hospitalized Oct. 8 for a stent replacement in his carotid artery but that complications from previous cancer surgery required a second operation. “Friday morning he was smiling and doing fine,” Delania said. Later, Delania was told, her father began vomiting and then choking on the vomit. An anonymous tip to KXTV said the staff had mistakenly placed a DNR band on Mayo’s arm, which the VA confirmed — but the VA said it doesn’t believe the error contributed to Mayo’s death.

Senate lawmaker eyes hearings on cost of Hepatitis C treatments (Wall Street Journal)
Responding to the ongoing controversy over the prices for new hepatitis C treatments, U.S. Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) will probably hold a hearing – possibly before the year ends – to examine how the cost is affecting the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, according to his spokesman. Sanders is chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. His interest in a hearing comes as the expense of these medicines helps fuel a national debate over the rising cost of prescription drugs. New hepatitis C treatments, in particular, have caused a ruckus, because they promise cure rates exceeding 90%, which is prompting a sudden surge in prescribing – and subsequent concerns over the effect on insurance budgets. For the past several months, pharmacy benefit managers and state Medicaid programs have complained that the cost of Sovaldi, a treatment sold by Gilead Sciences, may become unsustainable. Sovaldi costs $1,000 a pill, or $84,000, for a 12-week regimen.

Unable to wake up from the VA nightmare (The Tennessean)
Editorial: The Veterans Affairs system in Middle Tennessee is in a deep hole and is using a teaspoon to dig its way out. A full month after a tense and crowded town-hall meeting in which Director Juan Morales asked veterans who said they were having trouble getting to see doctors to “fill out a form” so that his staff could check out their complaints, it appears that staff have worked only on those they deemed “needed direct and immediate attention.” The number of complaints they’ve addressed is not clear, but veterans who have been contacted by The Tennessean say that either no one has contacted them, or when they do, the staff does not address the vet’s grievance. Yes, this crisis of confidence sadly is only getting worse, as the VA begins to take on the feel of a parody of bureaucratic nightmares, getting more detached from the veterans with real-life medical problems whom it is supposed to help. Even the cases in which referral to a specialist outside the VA is recommended, vets can’t get approval for that until they see a VA staffer.

VA health care not the agency’s only trouble spot (Topeka Capital-Journal)
Editorial: Problems within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs obviously are not limited to the agency’s vast health care system designed to provide medical care to this country’s military veterans. Congress and President Obama responded, belatedly, earlier this year to the troubles within the health care system — physician shortages, long waiting times for appointments and secret waiting lists used to disguise tardy care — and now should be vigilant about monitoring and addressing issues within the VA’s office of Workforce Management, which provides guidance on employee relations and personnel development at centers that work directly with veterans.

VA hospital in Albuquerque to operate with fewer beds (KRQE-Albuquerque)
The Department of Veterans Affairs says it is reducing the number of inpatient beds at its Albuquerque hospital by 20 percent due to a nationwide nursing shortage. The department says the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center is limiting its inpatient beds to 120, down from 150. The department says the reduction of the number of beds in multiple wards addresses concerns regarding patient safety and quality of care. It also says the reduction will help boost morale and work satisfaction with the hospital’s nursing staff. And it says that could help recruit high-quality candidates to fill vacant nursing positions.