Originally published July 4 2014
Shock: VA whistleblower says veteran deaths covered up to improve stats
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) Another whistleblower has stepped forward in the ongoing VA scandal, telling CNN reporters that records of dead veterans were changed or physically altered -- some even recently -- to hide the number of them who have died while waiting for care at the Veterans Administration medical center in Phoenix, indicating yet another new scandal at the beleaguered agency.
According to the CNN report, "deceased" notes on files have been removed in order to improve statistics, "so veterans would not be counted as having died while waiting for care."
Pauline DeWenter, the whistleblower, should know; she is the actual scheduling official at the Phoenix VA who admitted that, for the better part of a year, she was ordered by supervisors to manage and handle the so-called "secret waiting list," the one which held the names of veterans seeking medical care who were often left for months with no care at all.
As CNN noted:
For these reasons, DeWenter is among the most important and central people to the Phoenix VA scandal over a secret wait list, veterans' wait times and deaths. Despite being in the center of the storm, DeWenter has never spoken publicly about any of it -- the secret list, the altering of records, the dozens of veterans she believes have died waiting for care -- until now.
Physical alteration of official records
DeWenter said one of her roles was to call vets when appointments became available, and to schedule them for a consultation. Sometimes, she says when she made the calls, she would discover that the veteran had died, and she would then enter that on their record.
But on at least seven occasions since last October, she said, records which showed that vets had died while awaiting care -- records which DeWenter handled personally and in which she had already entered details of the veterans' deaths -- were altered physically, or written over, by someone else. Those changes and rewrites would list the veteran as still being alive, which essentially hid the fact that they were deceased.
Some alterations had been made in just the past several weeks, she said, in a deliberate attempt to conceal the number of vets who had died awaiting care, "by trying to pretend dead veterans remain alive," CNN reported.
"Because by doing that, that placed (the veterans) back on the wait list," said DeWenter, explaining that she believes that the purpose of "bringing them back to life" via altered paperwork and, hence, re-listing them as waiting for care was done to hide the fact that vets were dying while waiting for the care that they were promised when they enlisted and were sent to war.
That would be the secret list
"I would say (it was done to) hide the fact. Because it is marked a death. And that death needs to be reported. So if you change that to, 'entered in error' or, my personal favorite, 'no longer necessary,' that makes the death go away. So the death would never be reported then," she said.
Beginning in early 2013, DeWenter noted that she was also told to hide the crisis at the Phoenix VA by hiding new requests for treatment. This request came at a time when the VA management was shamelessly handing out bonuses to senior staff members whose facilities -- quote, unquote -- met the goals of providing care in a timely manner, typically within 14 days, as laid out by VA officials in Washington.
New requests for care by vets seeking treatment were, in reality, stuffed into a desk drawer, to make the books look better, DeWenter said.
Asked what happened to the new requests for appointments, DeWenter responded, "They went into a desk drawer.... That would be the secret list."
Former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, once a four-star Army general, has stepped down because of the scandal. But as we're learning, it went far deeper than first reported.
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