OIG report: No evidence care delays caused VA deaths

An Office of Inspector General investigation found no evidence that veteran deaths at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital were the direct result of care delays, according to the Associated Press.

Allegations that care delays, along with a secret waitlist with accurate wait times, caused the deaths of at least 40 veterans, were a focal point of the VA scandal, which led to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation in May.

"It is important to note that while OIG's case reviews in the report document substantial delays in care, and quality-of-care concerns, OIG was unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely quality care caused the death of these veterans," VA Secretary Robert McDonald wrote in a memorandum about the draft report, which was shared with VA officials, according to the AP. The OIG hasn't released the final report. 

Despite the findings, the long waits for veterans were still unacceptable, Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson told the Associated Press.

To address those care delays, the VA outlined steps to improve care delivery, according to documents obtained by USA Today, including:

  • Bringing in ethics experts from outside the system to advise on hiring ethical staff and "communicat[ing] expectations around ethical behavior"

  • Spending $400 million across the system on overtime or private doctors to improve care delivery time

  • Training more than 8,000 schedulers nationwide (with nearly 800 of them based in Phoenix) in appropriate scheduling methods

President Barack Obama will take several executive actions today to improve veterans' access to care, according to Politico. The White House says the VA established a board to review records falsification. It will continue attempts to eliminate homelessness among veterans, which dropped by one-third in the last four years, according to VA statistics. Further executive actions will expand veteran access to mental healthcare, as well as assist with loans, student debt assistance and access to employment and education, according to the article.

To learn more:
- read the AP article
- here's the USA Today article
- check out the Politico article
- here are the homelessness statistics 

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