Topics: Veterans Affairs

Memo to Politico: Where was CNN on Aug. 20, 2012?

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Where was CNN on Aug. 20, 2012?

What CNN wasn't doing that day was reporting on the $50,000 the Department of Veterans Affairs spent for a "Patton" parody video for an employee "training" conference in Orlando.

It was Mark Flatten of the Washington Examiner who first reported that story. Your great, big wet kiss Wednesday for CNN entitled "Anatomy of a Veterans Affairs scandal" somehow missed that fact.

Your reporter missed a lot more en route to announcing that "CNN's path-breaking coverage" put the VA scandal in the headlines.

The reality is that the VA scandal has been building in the headlines since long before CNN's Phoenix VA story was broadcast, thanks largely to Flatten.

Flatten's "Patton" parody story was the first of more than 100 posts he's done since August 2012 reporting — often exclusively, always thoroughly and accurately — the major problems wracking VA.

A search on CNN.com for "Patton parody video" turned up nothing. To be sure, CNN has done some excellent VA reporting from time to time in recent years.

And the Phoenix story was excellent, too, even though it was reported weeks earlier by the Arizona Republic and discussed at length in a congressional hearing extensively reported by Flatten (see the accompanying video, starting at 1:45:00 and continuing to 1:49:00).

CNN's Drew Griffin also deserves credit for shrewdly insisting the story be broadcast during a pause in the cable network's wall-to-wall Flight 370 coverage. Timing counts for a lot in the TV news business.

But that's hardly "path-breaking reporting."

What Flatten has done is draw public attention for nearly two years to every major aspect of what now constitutes the "VA scandal."

Want to talk about veterans dying, purging medical test orders and manipulation of waiting lists? Check out these Flatten stories:

May 12, 2014 - Whistle blower says VA delays, denials may have led to thousands of unnecessary deaths due to colon cancer.

May 1, 2014 - VA purged 1.5 million medical tests orders.

April 7, 2014 - VA admits 23 patient deaths.

March 12, 2014 - VA official who "resigned" over patient deaths still on the payroll.

Feb. 25, 2014 - VA purged thousands of medical test orders in Los Angeles, Dallas.

Oct. 24, 2013 - Three more VA patient deaths.

Or how about VA's terrible benefits backlog?

February 2013 - Flatten's five-part series "Making America's Heroes Wait."

Then there's all those VA bonuses:

Feb. 8, 2014 - Shinseki defends VA bonuses.

May 8, 2013 - Failing VA execs got bonuses for years.

Aug. 23, 2013 - VA giving bonuses to incompetent doctors.

Sept. 9, 2013 - VA execs regret deaths, but keep their bonuses.

Can't forget VA incredible management incompetence:

Nov. 13, 2012 - Former soap starlet at center of tax-funded VA drama.

Oct. 10, 2012 - VA's perverse management incentives.

Oct. 15, 2013 - Cost of VA advertising campaign balloons.

That's a small sample of Flatten's work on VA, but perhaps it's enough to explain why Concerned Veterans for America's Pete Hegseth asked this on May 10, 2013:

"If you’re interested in keeping tabs on veterans’ issues, then you’re keeping an eye on the work of investigative reporter Mark Flatten at the Washington Examiner, right?

"Flatten is an essential read if you’re looking for the facts on the subpar performance of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs."

Hegseth — who also deserves much credit in pushing the VA scandal to its present prominence — noted another reporter whose reporting has been essential to understanding the issues.

That would be Aaron Glantz of the Center for Investigative Reporting, who has been covering VA issues for years.

His most recent post on VA failing to follow its own guidelines in prescribing narcotic prescription drugs is typical of Glantz's fine work.

Earlier this year, Glantz picked up a Peabody Award in recognition of his reporting on the soaring rate of opiate prescriptions by VA doctors.

The maxim that "success has many fathers, while failure is an orphan" is as true in the media world as it is elsewhere.

That fact doesn't make it any easier to listen to opportunistic patrimony claims made at the expense of a guy like Mark Flatten, who is one of the best journalists I've ever been privileged to work with.

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