FBI Joins Investigation Into VA Wait Times

The Veterans Affairs inspector general’s office is also looking into 69 facilities.

National Journal
Jordain Carney
June 11, 2014, 9:56 a.m.

An­oth­er day, an­oth­er de­vel­op­ment on the Vet­er­ans Af­fairs De­part­ment wait-list scan­dal.

FBI Dir­ect­or James Comey on Wed­nes­day told mem­bers of the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee that the bur­eau’s Phoenix of­fice has opened an in­vest­ig­a­tion. The FBI is look­ing in­to al­leg­a­tions that VA staffers at its Phoenix fa­cil­ity lied about vet­er­ans’ wait times for med­ic­al care so they could re­ceive a bo­nus.

“We will fol­low wherever the facts take us. The Phoenix of­fice is where we opened it, be­cause that was the primary locus of the ori­gin­al al­leg­a­tions. We are work­ing with the VA IG,” Comey said, re­spond­ing to ques­tions on if the FBI will ex­pand its in­vest­ig­a­tion. Mul­tiple re­s­ports have found that the ma­nip­u­la­tion of wait time data at VA fa­cil­it­ies is a sys­tem­ic, na­tion­wide is­sue.

The de­cision comes after Richard Griffin, the VA’s act­ing in­spect­or gen­er­al, told mem­bers of the House Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs Com­mit­tee that it was in­vest­ig­at­ing 69 VA fa­cil­it­ies — not in­clud­ing Phoenix — for al­leg­a­tions in­clud­ing crim­in­al wrong­do­ing.

Griffin ad­ded that his of­fice is work­ing with DOJ, but it re­mains to be seen wheth­er the Justice De­part­ment thinks that al­ter­ing the wait times for vet­er­ans to re­ceive care rises to the level of a crim­in­al pro­sec­u­tion.

“Once someone loses his job or gets crim­in­ally charged for do­ing this, it will no longer be a game. And that will be the shot heard around the sys­tem,” he said.

Bad news for the VA has been pil­ing up. An in­tern­al audit re­leased Monday found that ap­prox­im­ately 57,000 vet­er­ans had been wait­ing 90 days or more for an ap­point­ment, and that more than 63,000 vet­er­ans en­rolled in VA care who re­ques­ted an ap­point­ment nev­er got one. That fol­lows an in­ter­im re­port last month, which found that 1,700 vet­er­ans were kept off wait­ing lists at the VA’s Phoenix fa­cil­ity. The re­port led to Eric Shin­seki’s resig­na­tion as VA sec­ret­ary.

Law­makers from both parties have in­creas­ingly called for a crim­in­al in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to wheth­er VA of­fi­cials po­ten­tially com­mit­ted fraud by ly­ing about wait times so they could meet per­form­ance meas­ures that would — in turn — get them a bo­nus.

“When you’ve gone out there and on pur­pose mis­lead, know­ing that you would get a fin­an­cial bo­nus if you did that — which is ex­actly what’s happened — is that fraud? I think that is,” Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Phil Roe of Ten­ness­ee said.

Philip Matkovsky, as­sist­ant deputy un­der­sec­ret­ary for health for ad­min­is­trat­ive op­er­a­tions, ad­mit­ted Monday even­ing that “ty­ing re­wards and in­cent­ives “¦ to an activ­ity is a mis­take.”

Since the start of the scan­dal, the VA has sus­pen­ded a re­quire­ment that vet­er­ans re­ceive an ap­point­ment with­in 14 days of mak­ing a re­quest, with crit­ics ar­guing that — while well-in­ten­tioned — it was un­real­ist­ic.

The FBI was un­able to im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quest for com­ment.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
CITIZENS UNITED PT. 2?
Movie Based on ‘Clinton Cash’ to Debut at Cannes
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."

Source:
×