At least anecdotally, the Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Wichita has stood out as a proud exception to the reported failures and fraud at VA facilities in Phoenix and elsewhere. So it has been shocking to learn that the Wichita VA had a secret waiting list and cases of delayed care that had endangered some veterans.
That disappointment was deepened by the circumstances of the revelation, which came via fax to Kansas Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts just hours after Roberts had met with Dole VA officials and been assured that the hospital was “doing just fine,” as he told the Wichita Pachyderm Club.
According to the fax, which was sent on behalf of Dole VA Director Francisco Vazquez, the Office of Inspector General had found that nine veterans in Wichita had waited more than 90 days for treatment and an unauthorized secret waiting list for treatment had “placed veterans at risk.” Wichita’s secret list was among 10 found in the VA’s Heartland Network and one of only two to have placed vets at risk, according to the fax. On Wednesday the Associated Press reported that 385 veterans were on an unauthorized waiting list, some for more than 90 days.
The public now deserves more than the Dole VA’s assurances, as the fax said, that the list has been “terminated,” gaps in patient access have been corrected and “investigations for accountability are ongoing.” Though there have been reports about outmoded VA computers nationally, it was startling to learn that at least some Wichita VA computers are still based on the DOS operating system.
The resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki was a necessary consequence of the VA scandal. But it just became local and personal for Roberts, Moran and other members of Kansas’ congressional delegation, who now must make it their business to see that all Kansas veterans get the promised treatment and that the VA has the resources and policies necessary to deliver that care.