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VA executives received $100M in bonuses as problems mounted

Executives and employees of the troubled Veterans Affairs health system enjoyed over $100 million in bonuses, according to the Asbury Park Press.

The federal government warned the VA in the past about the growing issue of excessive patient wait times and its detrimental effect on the health care system. Still, VA executives and employees received $108.7 million in bonuses over the course of three years.

Since 2005 more than a dozen reports have been released showing the negative impact of patient wait times at both the national and local levels. The VA said more than 57,000 veterans waited 90 days before seeing a doctor.

​Lawmakers in the House of Representatives Tuesday unanimously passed a measure that will suspend VA bonuses until 2016. Decorated war veteran Eric Shinseki resigned as Secretary of Veterans Affairs after the outbreak of this information, and the agency put a hold on employee bonuses for 2014.

The Phoenix VA Health Care System is under a federal Justice Department investigation for reports that it maintained a secret waiting list to conceal the extent of its patient delays, in part because of complaints such as Laird's. But there are now clear signs that veterans' health centers across the U.S. are juggling appointments and sometimes manipulating wait lists to disguise long delays for primary and follow-up appointments, according to federal reports, congressional investigators and interviews with VA employees and patients.

The growing evidence suggests a VA system with overworked physicians, high turnover and schedulers who are often hiding the extent to which patients are forced to wait for medical care.

Read the full story from the Los Angeles Times here.

At least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, many of whom were placed on a secret waiting list.

The secret list was part of an elaborate scheme designed by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix who were trying to hide that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor, according to a recently retired top VA doctor and several high-level sources.

For six months, CNN has been reporting on extended delays in health care appointments suffered by veterans across the country and who died while waiting for appointments and care. But the new revelations about the Phoenix VA are perhaps the most disturbing and striking to come to light thus far.

Read the story here.

In the decade after 9/11, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs paid $200 million to nearly 1,000 families in wrongful death cases, according to VA data obtained by The Center for Investigative Reporting.

In that time, CIR found the agency made wrongful death payments to nearly 1,000 grieving families, ranging from decorated Iraq War veterans who shot or hanged themselves after being turned away from mental health treatment, to Vietnam veterans whose cancerous tumors were identified but allowed to grow, to missed diagnoses, botched surgeries and fatal neglect of elderly veterans.

Read the story and view the interactive map.

Since 2007, 28 Marines from the base in Twentynine Palms in southern San Bernardino County, Calif. have died in off-duty vehicle accidents, a rate higher than at other Marine Corps bases.

The Desert Sun examined each of these deaths during a yearlong investigation of non-hostile military fatalities in the desert. The paper analyzed thousands of pages of accident reports, autopsies and internal military reports, interviewed combat veterans, police and sheriff's deputies, scientists and doctors, and dozens of the many Marines and their families based at Twentynine Palms.

The story is part of a three-day series. Part two focuses on the 15 Marines who killed themselves on the base since 2007. Part three looks at post-traumatic stress disorder.

Project launch page | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Interactive Map

Veterans centers in Oklahoma routinely hire doctors and other licensed medical personnel with a record of problems to treat the state’s sickest, most vulnerable veterans.

Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs say money is the culprit, claiming it’s difficult to find suitable applicants with clean records to work at the state’s seven veterans centers.

The Pentagon spends about $100 million a year to find men like World War II POW Arthur “Bud” Kelder, following the ethos of “leave no man behind," ProPublica reports. Yet it solves surprisingly few cases, hobbled by overlapping bureaucracy and a stubborn refusal to seize the full potential of modern forensic science. Last year, the military identified just 60 service members out of the about 83,000 Americans missing from World War II, Korea and Vietnam, around 45,000 of whom are considered recoverable.

Read the full story. View the records.

"Despite the "urgent medical correction letter" posted at FDA.gov a trainer for B. Braun, the German manufacturer that produced the recalled morphine drip machine, came to the Seattle VA to teach nurses how to use the machine. According to the nurses, the trainer told them that a correction was coming soon for the device’s breakable plastic clip, but it was safe to use the machines until they were repaired."

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the agency charged with helping veterans recover from war instead masks their pain with potent drugs, feeding addictions and contributing to a fatal overdose rate among VA patients that is nearly double the national average.

"In the 12 years since American troops first deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, more than 2.6 million veterans have returned home to a country largely unprepared to meet their needs. The government that sent them to war has failed on many levels to fulfill its obligations to these veterans as demanded by Congress and promised by both Republican and Democratic administrations, a News21 investigation has found."

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