In November 2013, preliminary reports of veterans dying while waiting for medical care at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs (VA) health care office surfaced among mainstream news sources. As reports continued to surface, it was revealed that not only had the VA neglected to provide treatment to ailing patients, it had also neglected to schedule appointments for up to 64,000 veterans going back 10 years.
By June 2014, mass speculation and an internal audit of VA facilities conclusively showed that facilities across the nation had been involved in covering up conflicts within the organization. Correspondence between administrators had come to light describing efforts in “gaming the system a bit” and “cooking the books.” As a result Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs officially
resigned. The secretary was quickly replaced by Robert A. McDonald, former Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of The Procter & Gamble Company. McDonald was confirmed on July 29, 2014 amidst general hope that McDonald’s experience dealing with organizational restructuring in the recent recession would benefit the VA. The Senate and the President confirmed McDonald and passed a $16 billion budget for the agency to address organizational failures.
Since that time, numerous officials have been forced to recant statements denying issues within the
VA system. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla) said that up to 1,000 veterans may have died as a result of institutional incompetency in the last decade.
Despite statements from both the President and Congress, outrage continued to stem both from veterans groups such as the American Legion and the general public as to how this could have been overlooked for such a long time.
Since June, President Obama has continued efforts to rectify the situation as he addressed the American Legion’s 96th convention and renewed promises to follow through on all commitments to U.S. veterans. 19 new executive actions were signed by the President in August 2014 in order to further repair the VA health system, as well as providing new economic opportunities for those returning from service. Congress, in their 2014 legislative response, also made it possible for veterans to pursue medical treatment at private providers in order to provide some measure of recompense and ease strain on the still struggling system.
Even as recently as June 2014, the Secretary continues to commit the organization to removing any and all individuals responsible for the problem.
The latest development, though still in progress, is an FBI investigation into the circumstances leading up to and causing the problems with the VA in response to formal requests from congressional members.