- The Washington Times - Friday, June 27, 2014

Top advisers told President Obama Friday that there are “significant and chronic systemic failures” in the veterans’ healthcare system that are yet to be addressed by the administration.

Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson and presidential assistant Rob Nabors told Mr. Obama in an Oval Office meeting that a “corrosive culture” and poor management at the VA has sapped employee morale and contributed to delayed services for veterans. Their preliminary recommendations call for reforming the veterans’ health care system instead of scrapping it.

Mr. Obama ordered the review after news reports this spring revealed that thousands of veterans at a VA clinic in Phoenix had their health-care services delayed and that managers kept a phony list to suggest veterans were receiving prompt care.

Since then, the probe has expanded nationwide, and the scope of the problems has grown. Amid the burgeoning scandal, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned.

The preliminary report to Mr. Obama said the vast majority of VA employees are dedicated to their jobs but the agency’s culture “tends to minimize problems or refuses to acknowledge problems altogether.”

The review also found that a 14-day standard for scheduling veterans’ medical appointments is unrealistic and has led to manipulation.

Among the recommendations are a need for more doctors and support staff.

The Office of Special Counsel sent a letter to Mr. Obama this week saying the the VA has consistently ignored whistle-blower warnings about dangerous practices that jeopardize patient safety. The letter said the failure of Phoenix VA officials to address warnings about fraudulent appointment scheduling was part of a “troubling pattern” nationally in which the agency investigated and verified complaints but failed to fix problems.

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