Veterans Affairs officials purged 1.5 million unfinished medical orders

Mark Flatten
The Washington Examiner

More than 1.5 million medical orders were canceled by the Department of Veterans Affairs without any guarantee the patients received the treatment or tests they needed, the Washington Examiner has found.

Since May 2013, veterans’ medical centers nationwide have been under pressure to clear out 2 million backlogged orders for patient care or services.

They were given wide latitude to cancel unfilled appointments more than 90 days old. By April 2014, the backlog of what the agency calls “unresolved consults” was down to about 450,000.

What happened to other 1.5 million appointments is something that no one, including top officials at the veterans’ agency, can answer.

A review by the Government Accountability Office of the process VA used to close old consult orders found that poor documentation in patient files and the lack of independent verification made it impossible to know whether patients got care they needed before their medical orders were canceled…

…It’s not clear how long the VA has been mass-closing backlogged orders for tests and other procedures.

The Los Angeles purge began in 2009, when hospital administrators were under orders from Washington to reduce the backlog of unfilled consults, according to Oliver Mitchell, a whistleblower who formerly worked as a scheduling clerk in the Los Angeles facility’s radiology department.

Mitchell filed separate complaints to the inspector general and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel in 2009 alleging thousands of tests were canceled…



The complete article is at The Washington Examiner.



Update:   Also at the site,  Health care spending spikes at fastest rate since 1980 in first quarter of Obamacare

With millions of Americans gaining coverage through President Obama’s health care law, health care spending spiked by a staggering 9.9 percent in the first quarter of 2014 — the fastest rate since 1980 – according to data released Wednesday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Obamacare was pitched as a plan to reduce health care spending, and formally titled the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” In 2009, Obama called the status quo – in which health care spending was accelerating toward becoming one-fifth of the economy – “unsustainable.”…



Update 2: Examiner Editorial: Veterans Secretary Eric Shinseki is missing in action

…For more than a year, the Washington Examiner’s Mark Flatten has published dozens of stories exposing the outrageous bureaucratic incompetence, lack of individual responsibility and outright corruption that has come to distinguish the VA during the past decade. On Thursday, Flatten describes how more than 1.5 million medical orders for tests and other treatment were mass-purged by VA officials in 2011 and 2012. Worse, according to a Government Accountability Officeauditor Flatten interviewed, it is impossible to know from the VA’s sorry record-keeping how many of the trashed tests prescribed in the medical orders were ever actually performed.

Previously, stories by Flatten (and the Center for Public Integrity’s Aaron Glantz) documented how hundreds of thousands of veterans’ benefit applications were trapped in the backlogged never-never lands of bureaucratic processing. In addition, millions of tax dollars in performance bonuses were awarded to VA executives managing facilities in which dozens of veterans died for lack of proper care. And droves of VA employees attended “training conferences” that just happened to convene near popular vacation destinations. If ever there was an example of a sick federal department, it is VA…



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