by John Solomon
Early in the debt ceiling crisis, the Biden administration tried to scare veterans into believing Republicans might cut their benefits, which did not happen. But the administration’s own treatment of the nation’s warriors suffers from glaring failures ranging from lax security to benefits delayed by unwarranted tests.
The failures were laid bare in a series of reports and memos made public by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ internal watchdog, the Office of Inspector General, shortly before Memorial Day and reviewed by Just the News.
“OIG staff have identified significant deficiencies,” VA Inspector General Michael Missal wrote to Congress in a cover letter accompanying the agency’s latest semiannual oversight report.
“Our oversight efforts spotlighted in this report help illustrate how weaknesses in any of these areas of accountability can negatively affect veterans and can waste or misuse taxpayer dollars,” he also said.
Missal flagged numerous audits and investigations that uncovered problems affecting the health, safety and services of America’s veterans.
They included a recent management advisory that highlighted “concerns revealed across four prior oversight reports about [Veterans Benefits Administration] decision-making on claims-processing issues that adversely affected some beneficiaries.”
The unfixed problems flagged in prior years also included the continued delayed of veterans benefits because unwarranted exams are being requested, the reports show.
“Veterans are still being required to attend unwarranted medical re-examinations for disability benefits,” the semiannual report noted.
“Unwarranted reexaminations are a waste of appropriated funds, could cause undue hardships for veterans, and reduce the efficiency and timeliness of claims processing,” the report also reads. “The OIG found VBA did not require staff to cite objective evidence for why reexaminations were needed per policy.”
Another glaring problem required urgent action to fortify VA facilities suffering lax security.
“Persistent police staffing shortages and growing concerns about risks to VA staff, patient and visitor safety at healthcare facilities led to an OIG review of observed security and incident preparedness conditions,” the semiannual report stated.
A review of 70 such facilities “identified multiple security vulnerabilities and deficiencies, most notably security staffing shortages that contributed to the lack of a visible and active police presence,” also according to the report.
Another red flag involved the VA’s lax approach to dealing with suicidal veterans with access to firearms.
One report noted there are “deficiencies in lethal means safety training, firearms access assessment and safety planning for patients with suicidal behaviors.”
“The review team examined the electronic health records of 480 patients with firearm-related suicide behavior events,” one report noted. “Among patients with nonfatal events, VHA staff failed to document required safe storage discussions in approximately 30 percent” of the cases.
In addition, some serious problems were flagged at individual VA hospitals. For instance, in Puget Sound, Wash., a patient’s care was delayed by “poor documentation and inadequate staff training,” while at a Washington, D.C., facility a patient was able to attempt suicide by gaining access to medicines, the reports showed.
Even a facility in President Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware was found deficient when a patient at a Wilmington care home suffered “harmful complications” from eating the wrong food because of staff errors.
The breadth of problems waiting to be fixed in VA was stunningly clear in a table the OIG appended to its semiannual report that listed more than 150 unresolved recommendations from prior investigations.
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John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist, author and digital media entrepreneur who serves as Chief Executive Officer and Editor in Chief of Just the News. Before founding Just the News, Solomon played key reporting and executive roles at some of America’s most important journalism institutions, such as The Associated Press, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Newsweek, The Daily Beast and The Hill.
Photo “Military Veteran” by Sharefaith.