Whistleblower: Phoenix VA hid deaths

Whistleblowers from a Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix say the records of dead veterans were altered to cover up how many died waiting to receive medical care.

“Deceased” notes on medical records were removed or changed to boost the facility’s statistics, Pauline DeWenter, a scheduler at the hospital, told CNN.

ADVERTISEMENT
She said that at least seven times since last October, records were written over, basically hiding the deaths, a process she called “bringing them back to life.”

The Phoenix hospital has been a focal point in the now months-long scandal that has rocked the VA.

An inspector general interim report released last month showed that veterans at the facility had waited an average of 115 days for an initial doctor’s appointment, while the official date claimed the wait time was only 24 days. The investigation also uncovered 1,700 veterans have been kept off official patient rolls.

The review’s findings directly led to Secretary Eric Shinseki resigning on May 30.

Members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Monday asked Dr. Thomas Lynch, an assistant deputy under secretary at the VA, about the allegations as the news broke during a late night oversight hearing.

Lynch said he was unaware of the claims.

Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) expressed disbelief that Lynch did not know about the new discoveries as he has visited the Phoenix hospital four times since the scandal over patient wait times began.

She said Lynch’s claims were hard to believe since the VA had been “under a microscope” in recent months.

The department’s inspector general has ongoing investigations at nearly 70 department sites and is working with the Justice Department to determine what, if any, criminal charges should be brought against employees and managers found to be guilt of data manipulation.