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November 03, 2014

White House Appointee Told Inspector General To Water Down Report on VA Waitlist Deaths

Every issue is a PR issue to them.

Every single one.

If you remember, the IG report contained a scandalously deceptive and out-of-left field claim that while 40 people died on the wait list awaiting treatment that could save their life, their deaths could not be medically attributed to the delay.

This is an absurd statement, as medical reasons for death include "heart failure" and the like -- actually bodily failures that result in death. For example, you would never say that "drunk driving" was the medical cause of death. The medical cause of death might be bleeding out or massive trauma to the head, which were caused by a car crash caused by drunk driving; but the actual medical cause of death would be "bled out" or "massive brain trauma."

You could never assign blame to the VA using this particular standard.

But that was the whole point of it. They insisted on a standard which was guaranteed to give them a favorable talking point.

Then they sold that to the media as exonerating the VA.

Which was the plan, as the emails show.

And, of course, the drive-by media did eat it up. They media trumpeted this nonsense claim that no deaths could be attributed to the endless wait.

Now it turns out -- a White House appointee lobbied for this strange methodology.

A top Department of Veterans Affairs official and a White House appointee successfully pressed for changes in an inspector general's report on the Phoenix VA medical center.

According to newly released documents, the report was amended to add a finding that there was no conclusive evidence that delays in care resulted in veteran deaths.

In recent congressional testimony, acting VA Inspector General Richard Griffin adamantly denied that changes in the final report, which downplayed links between delayed care and up to 40 veteran deaths, had been "dictated" by VA headquarters.

But e-mails released Friday by the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs show that Sloan Gibson, who had been acting VA secretary, personally corresponded with Griffin in early August, asking him to amend the report.

Specifically, Gibson asked the inspector general to add findings about a Phoenix whistle-blower's claim that up to 40 veterans died awaiting care.

E-mails show White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors, appointed by President Barack Obama this summer to monitor the VA scandal, also urged the change. The e-mails also asked the OIG to share its planned "message" to the media about veterans' deaths.

Later, Gibson sent a note to Griffin, whom he addressed as "Griff."

"Thanks on all counts!" for changes in the Phoenix report, he wrote. "I appreciate the focus on the 40 deaths ..."


In subsequent press interviews, Gibson recited that phrase as a vindication for the VA; some media reported that the finding debunked allegations by the Phoenix whistle-blower, Dr. Sam Foote.

"It's time to take this out of the hands of the IG and turn it over to a special prosecutor." Indeed.

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posted by Ace at 06:13 PM

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