Patients at Veterans Administration hospitals across the nation are waiting months for treatment and in some instances the delays are costing them their lives, according to a CNN investigation.

A recent news report highlights the problem at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System where 40 veterans died after being placed on a secret waiting list, a CNN article reports.

The hospital allegedly hid the names of 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans as part of a scheme to cover up the fact that it couldn’t meet federal requirements to give patients care within 14 to 30 days, according to the article.

A retired VA physician told CNN that the Phoenix VA had two lists of patient appointments, one that it sent to Washington to show it was abiding by mandates and a hidden list where patients’ names languished, sometimes until they died.

The CNN reports of delayed diagnosis and treatment of veterans raised the ire of Congress. Earlier this year, members of Congress visited the Dorn Veterans Administration Medical Center in Columbia, S.C., and the Charlie Norwood Medical Facility in Augusta, Ga., to determine what was occurring, CNN reported.

A report released earlier this month by the Department of Veterans Affairs found that delays in appointments for consultations led to six veterans’ deaths at the Dorn VA in Columbia.

The VA forced patients at those hospitals to wait months for cancer screenings such as colonoscopies and endoscopies, and to date six deaths have been confirmed and more are likely dying of cancer, according to the article.

Congressional leaders cite the primary culprits as a lack of disciplinary action within the VA and failure to identify the causes of patient backlogs. The House Veterans Affairs Committee contends the VA withholds information and stonewalls congressmen who are trying to figure out why it is so inefficient.

Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican, is calling on Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and President Barack Obama to put more emphasis on timely care for veterans.

How the Phoenix System Works

Dr. Foote told CNN that when patients came in for an initial visit, their information would be entered into a computer, then a “screen grab” would be made and printed out, but the form would not be saved in the system. Information would then be put onto a secret list and the hard copy appointment would be destroyed.

The only record of the first request for care would be on the secret list, and patients would be removed only if they had an appointment time in less than 14 days, according to Foote. Other veterans would be left to wait.

No matter how VA hospitals are hiding their shortcomings, though, veterans are waiting too long for treatment in a nation that depends on them for freedom.

It’s long past time for the VA to clean up its system and start providing veterans with the quality care and timely treatment they deserve.

If a loved one in your family grows ill or dies because of negligence on the part of the Veterans Affairs health-care system, contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can advise you on your legal stance and guide you through the process to compensate your family.

Our nation’s veterans deserve prompt and skilled medical care from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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