WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new report suggests more than 1,000 Veterans might have died in the last decade because of lack of care from the Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers.
The report was released by Senator Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, and is a scathing review of a system he says has "covered up delays and deaths [the VA] has caused."
Senator Coburn, who is a medical doctor, begins his letter to Taxpayers saying, "Too many men and women who bravely fought for our freedom are losing their lives, not at the hands of terrorists or enemy combatants, but from friendly fire in the form of medical malpractice and neglect by the Department of Veterans Affairs."
The report, "Friendly Fire: Death, Delay and Dismay at the VA," suggests poor management is costing the department billions of dollars. It's the result of a year-long review of VA hospitals around the country.
The report reviews VA spending and found that the VA paid $200 million to Veterans' families for wrongful deaths, spent $5.1 million purchasing unused software licenses, spent almost $500 million on conference rooms and curtains, paid millions to department employees to perform union duties, and spent millions on lavish conferences and employee travel.
All this was being spent while Veterans died waiting for healthcare, according the report.
The report also criticizes the VA for its delay in completing Veterans' claims. WFMY News 2 reported on the backlog at the Winston-Salem VA Regional Office, where more than 30,000 claims folders were being stored on top of filing cabinets. This report says Veterans in Winston-Salem, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Cleveland, Chicago, Houston, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis have waited more than a year for disability claims to be addressed.
A North Carolina VA center is also mentioned for what the report calls "suspect lease practices." It reads, "In Wilmington, North Carolina, one clinic could yield an ROI as high as 100 percent for its property owners. Total cost for to build and design the clinic was $25 million, and the VA will pay an annual rent of $3.2 million over 20 years."
WFMY News 2 reached out to Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan for their reaction to this report.
Senator Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, said, "Senator Coburn's new report on the VA is incredibly informative and only adds to the narrative that some of us in the Senate have been voicing for years -- there are widespread, systemic failures that plague the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system. The culture that has developed at VA and the lack of management and accountability is simply reprehensible. I urge every American to take the time to read this report."
Senator Kay Hagan, D-North Carolina, said, "We need a complete change in culture at the VA. No veteran should wait months for life-saving care and no veteran's health should be put at risk because of inappropriate or irresponsible actions by those responsible for providing that care. Swift action must be taken by the VA to restore the faith and confidence of our veterans, and I will continue working to ensure there is full transparency and accountability in this process and our veterans are receiving the high quality care they deserve."
To read the entire report, click here.