VA Destroyed Records to Reduce Backlog- Disputed!

VA Destroyed Records to Reduce Backlog- Disputed!

Summary of eRumor:

This is a forwarded email that alleged that the Veterans Administration  (VA) destroyed old records of pending tests and procedures to reduce their backlog.

The Truth:

A former VA employee said that in an operation called “System Redesign” that “employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) destroyed veterans’ medical files in a systematic attempt to eliminate backlogged veteran medical exam requests.”  This according to a February 24, 2014 article by the Daily Caller who obtained recorded audio of an internal meeting of VA officials in Los Angeles, California.

According to the audio, this facility was getting more than 3000 requests a month for exams but only had the resources to accommodate 800 requests in a 30 day period.   The unfulfilled requests would roll over to the following month, which resulted in a gigantic backlog.

Former Marine veteran, Oliver Mitchell, used to be employed as a patient services assistant at the Veterans Administration in Los Angeles.  He told The Daily Caller that some patients had been waiting for exams for periods ranging from six to nine months and by the year 2008 the VA “didn’t know how to address the issue.”   Mitchell added, “The waiting list counts against the hospitals efficiency. The longer the veteran waits for an exam that counts against the hospital as far as productivity is concerned.”

Mitchell told the Daily Caller that “VA Greater Los Angeles Radiology department chief Dr. Suzie El-Saden initiated an ‘ongoing discussion in the department’ to cancel exam requests and destroy veterans’ medical files so that no record of the exam requests would exist, thus reducing the backlog.”

The Daily Caller said that Mitchell was transferred to another department and eventually lost his job after he “tried to blow the whistle on the scheme.”

According to a February 26, 2014 article by Military Times, the VA denied the allegations and Robert Petzel, VA’s undersecretary for health, told the Military Times that the Daily Caller report was “’scurrilous’ and confused.”   In a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing Petzel told lawmakers that “This was a carefully thought out review.”   Saying that nobody was denied any care, Petzel said, “There was no attempt to eliminate records.” 

The audio of the meeting was posted on YouTube and can be heard by clicking here>  Play the audio

The Los Angeles VA may have not been the only facility accused of destroying backlogged records.   According to an October 31, 2008 article by U.S. News, 41 regional VA offices had scheduled 500 documents for destruction.   The article said that investigators were unsure of how long the the VA had been doing this and “how many veterans may have been affected.”

Posted 03/03/14     Updated 03/05/14