VA Accused of Misleading Congress in a Big Way

The Department of Veterans Affairs has misled Congress regarding the numbers of veteran deaths that resulted from delayed treatment in a “fact sheet” provided to House investigators probing the department’s waiting list scandal, according to a report by the Tampa Bay Times.

The Times reported that the VA said in the “fact sheet” to Congress that it reviewed 250 million consultations for gastrointestinal cancers going back to 1999. The department said it found 76 veterans were harmed by treatment delays. Out of that, 23 died.

The problem with those figures is that it didn’t span all the way back to 1999, the Tampa Bay Times found. Rather all 23 deaths happened after 2010.

The VA did not immediately respond to inquiries from TheBlaze Monday.

WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 22: Robert McDonald, President ObamaÕs nominee to be the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, testifies before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee July 22, 2014 in Washington, DC. McDonald, if confirmed, would lead the recently scandal plagued Department of Veterans Affairs. Win McNamee/Getty Images

“They tried to misdirect Congress and the American people away from the facts,” House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) told the Tampa Bay Times. “I think they got caught and now they are trying to modify their story…. The misdirection was, in fact, designed in Washington.”

According to the Tampa Bay Times article, VA spokeswoman Gina Jackson said: “Is this really the most important question that you have that you want to address? Because it just seems to me it is a misunderstanding of the way the fact sheet is labeled. Am I missing something here?”

But according to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, there are plenty more questions that need to be answered. According to its website, there are 117 outstanding requests for information from the VA – many predating even the revelations about the waiting list scandal. Of those, 66 information requests are since 2012.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama will sign a VA reform bill at the Fort Belvoir, an Army base in Fairfax County, Virginia. The bill is designed to get veterans off waiting lists providing $10 billion in emergency funding to pay for treatments, and empowers the VA secretary authority fire senior executives.

“This new legislation that passed Congress with strong bipartisan support, will put in place reforms and needed additional resources to meet the high standards of service that our veterans have earned,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday.

Last week, the Senate confirmed Robert McDonald as the new VA secretary replacing Eric Shinski who resigned because of the scandal.

“The VA has taken aggressive steps to address the systemic issues found in the VA’s health care system. I know the president and Secretary McDonald want to build on this progress,” Earnest said.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported last week (as well as TheBlaze’s Pete Kesperowicz), almost one-third of the schedulers interviewed at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center told investigators they were ordered by supervisors to doctor actual appointment dates that veteran patients requested. Similar orders were given to staff in Horsham.

“I’m hopping mad,” Rep. Patrick Meehan (R., Pa.) told the Inquirer. “Because I sat directly across from the director at both Horsham and at the Philadelphia hospital and specifically asked about this issue, and they lied to my face.”

Meanwhile, where the scandal was first revealed, whistleblower Paula Pedene, 56, was the chief spokeswoman for the VA hospital there. The Washington Post reported Monday that she has been demoted and her office was moved to a desk in the basement of the building and her duties were reduced.