VA Scandal

Punishment should be more than counseling

How should a Department of Veterans Affairs manager who defrauded the government, took chances with veterans’ health care, then devised a coverup be punished? You may have some ideas about that.

The federal government’s answer? Counseling.

As we reported Tuesday, one of U.S. Rep. David McKinley’s constituents reported to him last year that something was wrong at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg. McKinley represents our area, which is West Virginia’s First Congressional District. Many veterans in our region rely on the VA hospital in Clarksburg.

McKinley went straight to the VA. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which also had been contacted by a whistleblower from the hospital, looked into the matter.

Investigators found that during a seven-year period, a manager at the hospital engineered a scheme whereby patient data was “intentionally manipulated” at the facility. The purpose was to make it appear at least some veterans were not kept waiting for care as long as actually was the case. In addition, the volume of patient visits was inflated.

Part of the scheme involved nurses being pressured to place patients in unofficial clinics, rather than record them as emergency department visits.

Whether any veterans were harmed by the manager’s actions was not reported by the Office of Special Counsel. Obviously, that should be checked.

One ramification of the misconduct was that 602 veterans were charged incorrect co-payments. That cost the VA $21,070.

Sit down for this: According to the Office of Special Counsel press release, the VA “is currently determining how to recoup lost payments.” In other words, the bureaucrats are looking into how they can go back to the 602 veterans and tell them they owe Uncle Sam money.

What about the culprit? Remain seated: According to the Office of Special Counsel, “the VA counseled the manager responsible …”

That’s it. No punishment, just a good talking to.

We sometimes refer to the bureaucracy in Washington as “the swamp.” That may be a disservice to the snapping turtles, cottonmouth snakes, alligators and quicksand of the real thing.