Federal authorities are conducting a nationwide review of all VA facilities, though the Hines VA Hospital in Chicago is being singled-out after a whistleblower exposed fraudulent activity resulting in harm to patients. Medical malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm dig deeper into this story and how patients have been affected.
The whistleblower was a social worker at Hines and alleged that a hospital executive – a man who is already under a cloud of suspicion – implemented a “secret waiting list” similar to schemes in other VA hospitals in the country. This waiting list kept names of veterans who were to be denied treatment in a scheme to hit fast treatment goals and collect bonuses.
This prevented hundreds, even thousands of veterans who were seriously ill or dying from getting the treatment they desperately needed. Veterans waiting for physical or mental treatment were forced to wait for weeks and even months, so executives could reap in bonuses.
Local Chicago veterans are devastated by this news, which demonstrates the utter lack of respect in hospitals designated to serve those who once risked their lives for our country. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in response to this federal scandal, stated that the allegations, if true, are unacceptable and being taken very seriously by federal auditors. One local veteran stated that he typically has to wait one to four months for an appointment.
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Illinois Senator Mark Kirk stated that the Inspector General, who is already conducting investigations in other VA hospitals accused of keeping similar lists, should immediately investigate Hines VA and provide a report as soon as possible. There will be Senate hearings on secret VA lists beginning Thursday, May 15, 2014, in Washington D.C.
Hines Hospital serves over 50,000 veterans every year. This scandal is not contained to Chicago – VA officials in Texas are concerned that some veterans passed away while waiting for treatments. Similar accusations are directed at the VA hospital in Phoenix, where about 40 veterans have died awaiting treatment and three executives are on administrative leave. Scandal is also stirring at the VA clinic in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Whistleblower Exposes Fraud
The Chicago whistleblower told reporters that employees were coming to her from almost all departments of this hospital, including surgery, inpatient, radiology, and outpatient, regarding the lists. When veterans called for an appointment, instead of logging their names into the computer system for the next available time, the patients were put on secret waiting lists, only formally booking them when an appointment came up within the VA’s goal time of 14 days.
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This was done because the VA grants bonuses to executives and doctors partly based on short wait times. Thus, patients were secretly waiting on these unofficial lists, to conceal delays in care to make Hines’ numbers look better, and to collect cash rewards. This incentive program for 14 day wait times was implemented in 2011.
Many believe this practice is more widespread than just a handful of VA hospitals. The VA Secretary, Eric Shinseki, will be the first to testify during the Senate hearings this morning. Lawmakers are well aware that the VA is operated as a bureaucracy that often moves much too slowly, to the demise of its veteran patients. Shinseki recently ordered in-person audits of the scheduling systems at all VA medical centers in the country.
Due to systematic leadership failures at VA clinics in Pittsburg, where a Legionnaire’s outbreak killed several patients, and Atlanta, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would ban bonuses for senior VA executives.
Our team of medical malpractice attorneys have been advocating on behalf of patients injured and killed by medical negligence for over 30 years. If you or someone you love suffered mistreatment at a hospital, such as harmful delays in treatment, contact our firm immediately. We provide free, confidential, no-obligation legal consultations to injured patients and families nationwide.