Topics: Veterans Affairs

VA official doesn't know whether cooking the books is a firing offense

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Joel Gehrke,Veterans Affairs,Veterans,Eric Shinseki

Veterans Affairs Undersecretary Robert Petzel doesn't know whether cooking the scheduling books is a firing offense at the department, even as an investigation into the deaths of veterans who had to wait for treatment begins.

"They would be disciplined," Petzel said of staffers who cook the books during a Senate hearing. Asked whether they would be fired, he said, "I don't know whether that's the appropriate level of punishment."

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, who is under pressure due to a cascade of scandals, said that "manipulation of data, of the truth, is serious," but couldn't say specifically if a person caught doing that would be fired.

"I would do everything I can," Shinseki told Sen. Mark Begich, R-Alaska. "There is a process here, senator," saying he didn't want to say something that might get a decision reversed due to predetermination.

Shinseki has ordered an audit of the department after "a VA scheduler in San Antonio said clerks scheduling medical appointments for veterans were 'cooking the books' at their bosses' behest to hide the fact some had to wait weeks, if not months, for appointments," per CNN.

The Washington Examiner's Mark Flatten reported Monday on a VA whistleblower who "said his boss implemented a policy in 2010 that colonoscopies would only be approved if the patient tested positive in three successive screenings for bloody stools."

“That was done because of dollars and cents," the whistleblower said. "For the VA, they have to be bleeding out of their rectum before they would authorize a colonoscopy. That was the standard of care."

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