WH report finds 'corrosive culture' at VA

Getty Images

A scathing review of the Department of Veterans Affairs released Friday calls for a complete overhaul and warns a “corrosive culture” led veterans to have to wait longer for care.

The report written by Rob Nabors, the president's deputy chief of staff, paints a bleak picture of operations within the department.

ADVERTISEMENT
It says the agency needs to take “significant further action” to address “systematic problems” with providing health service for former service members.

“It is clear that there are significant and chronic systemic failures that must be addressed by the leadership at the VA,” Nabors says in his report, presented to President Obama on Friday.

Nabors deems a 14-day scheduling standard, which requires VA hospitals not to allow patients more than two weeks to see a doctor, “arbitrary, ill-defined, and misunderstood.”

He writes that the 14-day goal was “unrealistic” and is a “poor indicator of either patient satisfaction or quality of care.”

The report also finds that a lack of “transparency or accountability” within the VHA leadership structure led to an “inability to effectively manage or communicate to employees or veterans.”

It said “cumbersome and outdated” technology complicated the scheduling of patient care, and that an “inability to clearly articulate budgetary needs” resulted in key shortages of certain types of specialists.

The VA also conducted little planning for anticipated demographic changes of veterans, including increases in female veterans, mental health needs, and a surge of younger veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The report is being released weeks after the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, and with public attention shifting from the controversy.

On Wednesday, the department announced the resignations of Will A. Gunn, the current General Counsel, and Dr. Robert Jesse, the acting Under Secretary for Health.

Obama dispatched Nabors to the department amid reports that veterans at dozens of facilities across the country faced lengthy wait times due to mismanagement, leading to poor medical treatment and even deaths.

Obama has asked Nabors to stay at the VA to assist the Department in a leadership overhaul, according to the White House.

Press secretary Josh Earnest said that an overhaul of leadership at the VA was "a very high priority" for the administration.

“That remains a very high priority of this administration to install new leadership at the VA, to start putting in place some of the reforms that, frankly, were initiated by the previous VA Secretary, and have also been recommended by some of the other individuals who are looking at the problems at the VA,” Earnest told reporters traveling with the president aboard Air Force One.