Whistleblowers topple VA official quitting over falsified records at hospitals

The top official for veterans health care has resigned amid a firestorm over long appointment waits, treatment delays and falsified records at VA hospitals.

Veterans Secretary Eric Shinseki says he has accepted the resignation of Robert Petzel, undersecretary for health care at the VA. It comes the day after both men were grilled by the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Whistleblowers say there were efforts to cover up the deaths of up to 40 veterans while they were awaiting appointments at the department’s giant medical center in Phoenix. Shinseki says most vets are satisfied with the quality of care they get, but more must be done to “improve timely access to that care.” Petzel announced in September he planned to retire in 2014.

Germaine Clarno, a VA social worker in Chicago says there are multiple secret waiting lists of veterans kept at the Hines VA medical Center.¬†Clarno says the purpose of the lists was “to make numbers look better for their own recognition and for bonuses.”

According to another report, over 40 veterans died in Texas due to delays in their receiving treatment from the VA medical centers there.

The VA grants bonuses to executives and doctors, partly based on short wait times. Whistleblowers — including Dr. Sam Foote, who revealed the scandal in Phoenix, where up to 40 veterans may have died — believe bonuses give an incentive to conceal delays in care.

Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers