Rep. Vern Buchanan calls for overhaul of VA in light of whistleblower investigation

Posted by Kate Irby on June 24, 2014 

US NEWS VETERANS 4 MCT

U.S. Rep Vern Buchanan questions witnesses Thursday during a meeting of Florida members of the U.S. House of Representatives to explore Department of Veterans Affairs health care in the state. On the left is Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton. CHRIS ADAMS/MCT

CHRIS ADAMS — MCT

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, again called for Congress to address the issues in Veterans Affairs on Tuesday following a scathing report by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the agency that investigates whistleblower complaints in the federal government.

Carolyn Lerner, who leads the OSC, wrote a six-page letter to President Barack Obama saying the VA commonly used a "harmless error defense," acknowledging issues and problems in the department but claiming patient care was unaffected.

“The VA is in a disturbing state of denial,” Buchanan said. “You simply cannot fix a problem if you refuse to acknowledge it even exists. This just underscores the need for Congress and the Administration to work toward a long-term solution to disinfect a VA system fraught with bureaucratic negligence and abuse.”

Buchanan represents a district with about 66,000 veterans. Six Florida facilities, including Bay Pines in St. Petersburg, are among the 112 being investigated for possibly manipulating appointment data.

The letter by Lerner detailed several cases where VA medical inspectors refused to acknowledge threats to patient health or safety, including an instance in Brockton, Mass. where a veteran was not given his first psychiatric evaluation until he had spent eight years as a resident of its VA mental health facility and another in Grand Junction, Colo., where the VA facility’s drinking water had elevated levels of Legionella bacteria, which can cause forms of pneumonia, and standard maintenance and cleaning procedures were not performed.

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