Egregious Punishments needed for VA missteps

Local veterans of military service may be among those victimized rather than served by the Department of Veterans Services. A VA audit found unacceptably long delays in providing care at the agency’s medical center in Clarksburg.

Even more troubling, agency investigators said “further review” is needed at 14 VA health care facilities in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Among them were at least two used by local veterans, in Clarksburg and Pittsburgh.

“Further review” designations are especially significant in light of the fact VA auditors checked 731 of the agency’s health care locations, including hospitals, clinics and other centers, throughout the country. Just 112 of them were listed as being in need of additional investigation.

Outrage over the VA’s treatment of veterans erupted earlier this year when a whistleblower alleged 40 veterans seeking care in Phoenix, Ariz., died while waiting for appointments. The source added that some VA officials were falsifying records to make it appear wait times for appointments were not as long as they actually were.

Agency auditors looking into wait-time allegations do not appear to have conducted thorough investigations. According to their report, many visits to VA health care centers lasted only a day or less.

But some of what they found should anger local veterans.

As U.S. Rep. Shelley Capito, R-W.Va., pointed out, the Clarksburg hospital’s record is abysmal. It had the fourth-longest wait time in the VA system for new patients seeking appointments with specialists, at an average of 86 days. It had the second-worst record, 96 days, for new patients requesting mental health care.

Clearly, officials at the?VA?hospital in?Clarksburg have to do better. Members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation should demand it.

Those “further review” designations imply strongly that VA investigators believe serious mismanagement – and perhaps wrongdoing – remain to be uncovered at health care locations on the list.

They include West Virginia hospitals in Clarksburg and Martinsburg, Ohio hospitals in Cleveland and Cincinnati, and one in Pittsburgh.

Also on the list are other VA health care facilities some local veterans may use in Wood County, W.Va. and Westover, W.Va.

Those “further review” investigations should be launched immediately. If they uncover wrongdoing, those responsible should be fired immediately. Then their files should be forwarded to federal prosecutors. If crimes were committed – and it seems they were – severe punishment is merited.