VA Scandal Continues: Death Records Changed to Make Data Look Better

The ongoing Veterans Administration scandal has just gotten worse. A whistleblower revealed that death records were changed to cover up how many VA patients died while waiting for treatment.

Pauline DeWenter, a scheduling clerk at the Phoenix VA, was told by superiors to manage the “secret waiting list,” which contained the names of veterans seeking medical care. The list often sat for months, without patients receiving any care at all.

DeWenter’s duties included scheduling appointments for veterans as openings became available. When calling patients, she often found that many died while waiting for a consultation. She would note that in the records. However, much to her surprise, she discovered that someone deliberately altered those records, listing deceased veterans as living. This happened on at least seven different occasions since last October.

As she told CNN, the changed records covered up the fact that people died while waiting for care.
DeWenter was also instructed to hide new appointment requests, by literally burying them in a desk drawer. This was done to meet target goals; so senior staffers could get bonuses for providing timely care.

If that wasn’t enough, DeWenter was also tasked with managing the backlog; answering to doctors, nurses and emergency room providers. She juggled life and death situations on many occasions, attempting to get the “sickest of the sick” patients immediate care.

In December 2013, she had enough. After a heart breaking phone conversation with the family of a Navy veteran who died while waiting for an appointment, DeWenter decided to come forward. She vowed that she would “never have this happen to another veteran again.”

Photo: Economist