MEMPHIS, August 15, 2014– While visiting Memphis, Tennessee yesterday, the new Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald danced around the issue of why the VA’s problems are not being repaired faster under his leadership. McDonald claims they are firing bad employees and working as quickly as possible to address the issues.
“You’ve got to treat that person with respect,” McDonald told reporters at the hospital. “They have to be allowed a certain due process that’s allowed them by law or by statute or by policy. And, so, we can’t talk to you about names, we can’t talk to you about individuals, even though that’s what you would like. We can’t do that because that would be disrespectful.”
According to an audit released in June more than 97 percent of 48,998 appointments at the Memphis hospital were scheduled within 30 days while 1,697 veterans were made to wait more than 30 days for appointments and another 507 veterans had to wait 61 days to 90 days for an appointment. New patients waited an average of nearly 50 days to see a primary-care doctor.
Secretary McDonald also added, “On the other hand, we’ve got to deal with it as quickly as we can. We’ve got to deal with it deliberately and we’ve got to deal with it appropriately. I can tell you, we are going to hold people accountable, and we’re going to do that as quickly as we possibly can.”
He claims he talked with “several veterans who had bad things to say” as well as whistle-blowers while in Memphis, however, when Secretary McDonald was asked how many people have been fired he dodged the question saying, “that’s not relevant. I mean, what’s relevant is what’s happened here in Memphis.”
According to last October’s inspector general’s report, which McDonald cited during his visit, three patients died after receiving bad care. The hospital claims they have changed the hospital’s emergency room policies since these incidents and another $3.8 million from within the VA’s budget is being made available to the Memphis VA to assist with expediency but the fact remains that McDonald seems to be putting the “respect” of the employees over that of the men and women who have fought for our freedoms and now are having to fight to get decent care or even an appointment to see a doctor which is unacceptable.