While veterans commit suicide and die waiting for care.. VA added 175 attorneys public relations officials

FILE--The Phoenix VA Health Care Center in Phoenix, is seen in this Monday, April 28, 2014, file photo. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Study: Less than 10 percent of new VA hires were doctors


A newly released study hammered the Department of Veterans Affairs for spending a fraction of its budget on new doctors while devoting millions to lawyers and public affairs officials – as thousands of veterans were waiting for care.

The study from OpentheBooks.com shows that between 2012 and 2015, just one in 11 new hires were “medical officers.” The findings are fueling criticism that the VA’s problems amount to more than just resources.

“What’s clear is that money is not the issue – the culture is,” said John Cooper, press secretary for Concerned Veterans for America.

OpentheBooks.com, a government watchdog group that publishes spending records from government agencies, found the VA added more than 39,000 positions (a 12.5 percent increase) between 2012 and 2015, while spending on annual salaries increased by 18.7 percent. The 3,591 medical officers hired amounted to less than 10 percent of the new positions. 

Much of the money that could have been directed to hiring new doctors – including $99.1 billion in salaries and bonuses – flowed to VA employees largely outside of the medical field.

The report noted the VA hired 175 lawyers between 2012 and 2015, bringing the total number of lawyers to 1,060 at the cost of $454 million in salaries and bonuses. The VA also directed $99 million to salaries and bonuses for public relations officials, according to the report author.

In addition, the report said the VA paid $1.7 million for surveys; $751.1 million for “household” and “office” furniture; and $303 million for non-essential positions such as painters, interior designers and gardeners.

The group also found 19 percent of the employees – or 67,609 – were paid more than $100,000 per year, with the top echelon of salaries reaching $400,000.

“It’s pretty difficult to argue the VA is suffering from a lack of resources when it spends money like this,” Cooper said.

The report was released amid the latest controversy over the VA’s attitude toward its veterans.

Secretary Robert McDonald earlier this week dismissed the extensive backlog in the system, saying veteran satisfaction, not wait time, should be the focus – and comparing the issue to lines at a Disney theme park.

“When you go to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? What’s important is what’s your satisfaction with the experience,” he said.

McDonald’s remarks were “shockingly tone deaf” and “calloused,” Adam Andrzejewski, founder and CEO of OpenTheBooks.com, who authored the group’s report, wrote on Forbes.com.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill voiced similar outrage this week, though McDonald issued a statement saying: “On Monday, I made some remarks on how we’re working to improve Veterans’ satisfaction with the care they receive from VA. It was never my intention to suggest that I don’t take our mission of serving Veterans very seriously.”

The VA scandal that was exposed two years ago concerned reports that veterans were dying while waiting for care, and that officials were covering up how long the wait-times really were.

The latest report noted nearly 500,000 veterans still wait to see a VA doctor.

But a separate report also found that VA doctors are not overworked or overbooked.

The Independent Assessment of the Veterans Health Administration reported in September that VA doctors only consult with 10 to 12 veterans per day, which is just about half the number of patients private consultants see


6 Responses

  1. Absolutely outrageous! Disgusting waste and abuse, and a foul way to treat, or lack of any treatment for our country’s veterans. Have the powers that be have no shame?

  2. Anonymous says he goes to one of the busiest VA centers and receives excellent care. What blows my mind is that people *assume* because they experienced something it must be that way for everyone.

  3. I am confused. I go to one of the busiest VA centers and they are doing a great job.

    Steve: there is still the law of probability and the BELL CURVE…some people take their job seriously and care about pts.. good healthcare teams are not necessarily created by accident… someone at the “top of the ladder” makes sure that pts’ proper care is primary goal… others will only do what is minimally necessary and upper management allows/condones such behavior

  4. I believe yes Disney does care about the waits in lines because don’t they now offer special passes with times on them for certain rides and all you have to do is show up.at that time and bypass the line for the ride???? This is a new item within the past year or 2 at Disney I remember hearing about it on the news.

  5. I’m just wondering who really profits from these wars that are ruining the lives of so many people. If the vets aren’t being treated right, then that tells me that they aren’t valued…..like they have served their purpose and that’s it.

  6. I don’t even know what to say except this is just despicable. The fact that they can waste this much money, knowing veterans are suffering mentally and physically as they wait for weeks, months for medical care is unforgivable.

    While at work yesterday, I stumbled upon a facebook page that was full of veterans commenting about the healthcare they receive (actually, I should say don’t receive because many were still waiting) – mainly medical care for their physical pain. It was just awful reading so many of those comments from those who were in constant physical pain and not receiving the care they deserve.

    I remember one had to use his own $$ to pay for surgery outside of the VA (not sure if it helped, but he was in pretty bad shape and very desperate for relief. He couldn’t find a VA dr. or a non-VA dr. to treat his pain). How can our government treat them this way and why are we continuing to allow this?

    I can’t wait for November. It might not matter that we get newbies. I can’t say whether they’ll be any better or worse, but I sure can’t wait to vote the two reps of mine who are up for re-election out. What’s horrible is I voted for them the first time around.

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