An Update on Last Year's VA Scandal
Back in April of 2014, this blog reported on a scandal that was first uncovered at the Phoenix, VA Hospital but eventually spread to VA centers nationwide. It seems that administrators were manipulating records to hide dangerously long patient wait times and collecting bonuses for improving those falsified wait times.
40 United States Armed Forces veterans died while waiting for care at the Phoenix, Arizona Veterans Health Administration facilities.
120,000 veterans were left waiting or never got care and schedulers were pressured to use unofficial lists to make waiting times appear more favorable.
1,700 veterans requested an appointment at the Phoenix VA were never even placed on an official wait list.
WHAT WAS DONE
Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, resigned and was replaced by Robert A. McDonald.
60 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs senior managers were scheduled to be fired.
Congress passed a new Veteran's Affairs bill that:
1. Allowed vets to seek medical care outside the VA system
2. Deployed mobile VA medical units
3. Ended the goal of providing appointments within 14 days
4. Provided for posting twice-monthly public updates of VA wait times
5. Banned performance bonuses
6. Put new emphasis on leadership protecting whistleblowers from retaliation
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
Only 3 senior managers were ever fired.
Sharon Hellman, the notorious Phoenix VA Director, has actually sued the VA to get her job back.
The current VA- IG's report has found that more than 31,000 inquiries placed by veterans to the Philadelphia Regional VA office call center still went ignored for more than 312 days.
Further whistleblowers and investigations found that VA's nationwide either sidetracked or manipulated the wait times for another 57,000 veterans.
Although harsh, the word "corruption" best describes the VA's problem. Corruption doesn't mean that all the decent hardworking employees at the VA are up to no good. Rather, the word describes what has happened to the culture.
An organization's culture is the collective belief system that directs the activities of all participants. It is the "why" an organization exists beyond "what" it does.
If that "why" begins to change over time, that is corruption. Because most normal human beings look to their own welfare first, organizations are threatened by the corruption of self-interest. Even the most well- meaning employees begin to want more money, shorter hours, lighter work load, more respect, and more authority over time. Their own welfare naturally begins to take precedence over the organization's collective "why".
The "why" of the VA can only be to tend to the physical and mental health needs of every veteran injured on our behalf defending the United States.
Great leaders create and constantly re-inspire their organization's culture. They instill the "why" in every employee over and over again. They are great leaders because they never stop managing the culture. The VA needs great leadership at every management level. Although it may take time to accomplish, a complete change in leadership is the only thing that will save the VA.