WASHINGTON, May 28th
Mr. Speaker, on Memorial Day, I was at Houston National Cemetery with Texas veterans and their families. They were irate about the allegations against the VA. They want to know what we plan to do about it.
In a July 2012 speech, President Obama said: ``I promised to strengthen the VA, and that promise has been kept.'' Thanks to whistleblowers, we now know that statement is not accurate.
The more we hear about the VA's treatment of veterans, the worse it gets. And over the past few weeks, we have learned that 26 VA facilities nationwide are being investigated for cooking the books, ensuring that the long wait times sick veterans have to endure are hidden from the public. Secret waiting lists, hidden agendas all driven by the greed of those at the highest level of the VA.
Why greed? Why cook the books? Because if wait times are reported low, VA officials receive bonuses. VA workers have allegedly used different tactics and strategies to give the impression that they were meeting the Department's standard of seeing patients between 14 and 30 days.
To promote this lie, the Phoenix VA hospital allegedly had a secret waiting list to conceal delays and wait times. Meanwhile, dozens of patients' conditions worsened, and many died waiting in line. It has been reported that between 1,400 and 1,600 sick veterans had to wait months to see a doctor.
The Phoenix VA was not the only place where fraud took place. In my home State of Texas, it has been reported that the VA officials in San Antonio and Austin purposely manipulated appointment data to hide the long wait times.
According to whistleblower reports, top level VA staff directed workers to ``ensure wait times were as close to zero as possible,'' in other words, juggle the books. He went on:
It's plain and simple common sense ..... If you have a patient who has a delay in diagnosis of any cancer, that cancer did not stop growing while they were waiting for the doctor to see them.
Mr. Speaker, treating our veterans like cattle in line at the stockyards is unacceptable. Our warriors are dying in line.
According to The Daily Beast, a whistleblower in the Texas VA described this as ``an organized crime syndicate ..... People up on top are suddenly afraid they may actually be prosecuted, and they're pressuring the little guys down below to cover it all up.''
According to the whistleblower, the problem comes from the higher-ups. ``If VA directors report long delays, they won't stay a director very long, and they certainly won't get promoted.''
``No one is getting rewarded for honesty. They pretty much have to lie; if they don't, they don't go anywhere.''
``If one person comes up with a way to cheat on a report to the government and profit from that lie, that's defrauding the government.''
``If hundreds of people are defrauding the government, it's a conspiracy, and that's what you've got now, and it runs coast to coast and bottom to top.''
Mr. Speaker, it is time for the administration to stop claiming ignorance and blaming lower-level operatives for a scandal that has been driven from higher up. Secretary Shinseki has overseen a Department that has now been called a ``criminal syndicate.'' He should just be fired.
Those money-hungry executives at the VA who engaged in secret illegal activity that has resulted in veterans dying should be treated for what they are--criminals. And those veterans who are still waiting in line should be given waivers to see the private doctor of their choice.
Mr. Speaker, cancer does not wait for government bureaucracy, incompetence, and delay. American warriors have died in lands far, far away. But now, other American warriors are dying in the United States, in line, waiting for VA health care. Put those that committed crimes in line for the stockade, and fix the problem.
And that's just the way it is.