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Vets In Imminent Danger At VA Following GOP Cuts, Investigation Finds

U.S. veterans healthcare

Congressional Republicans claim to love our military veterans, but their decisions not only contradict that claim, it’s killing the men and women they sent to fight in senseless wars overseas.

Just this past January, Republicans blocked an amendment by Democratic Sen. Jon Tester (MT) that would have made it harder to restrict veterans’ ability to access VA health care.

While Democrats have sought to provide better funding and health care access at the VA, Donald Trump has proposed eliminating the agency altogether through privatization.

In October 2016, Senate Republicans passed a Bill which cut $857 million from programs that benefit veterans, but had no problem increasing funding for missile programs

In April 2015, President Obama actually had to threaten the GOP with a veto after House Republicans attempted to cut benefits for 70,000 veterans, which included money for education and prosthetic research. Overall, the cuts amounted to $1.4 billion. The Veteran’s Affairs Funding Bill of 2015 really should have been called the “Screw You, Veterans Bill of 2015.”

Other pieces of legislation offered by Democrats that would have provided much-needed aid to veterans across the country have been killed by Republicans over the years, including the Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act, which would have helped veterans and their spouses seek counseling and fertility treatments.

Another veterans bill that was killed by Republicans was offered up by Senator Bernie Sanders in 2014 that would have expanded healthcare and education funding for veterans. But the GOP blocked the bill by attaching sanctions on Iran to it.

This is perhaps the most egregious block of any veterans bill since Reuters reported at the time that it would have created 27 new veterans hospitals to deal with the increased load of wounded veterans coming back from war. These hospitals could help prevent suicides because it would cut down on the wait times veterans are dealing with and give them hope that Congress actually cares about them.

Now, MSN reports that conditions are so dangerous at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, D.C., that the agency’s chief watchdog issued a rare preliminary report Wednesday to alert patients and other members of the public.

According to the report:

“The VA inspector general found that, in recent weeks, the operating room at the hospital ran out of vascular patches to seal blood vessels and ultrasound probes used to map blood flow.

The facility had to borrow bone material for knee replacement surgeries. And at one point, the hospital ran out of tubes needed for kidney dialysis, so staff had to go to a private-sector hospital and ask for some.

The hospital, which serves more than 98,000 veterans in the nation’s capital, lacks an effective inventory system, the inspector general determined, and senior VA leaders have known about the problem for months and haven’t fixed it. Investigators also inspected 25 sterile storage areas and found 18 were dirty.”

US Veterans

Photo: Imgur

“Although our work is continuing, we believed it appropriate to publish this Interim Summary Report given the exigent nature of the issues we have preliminarily identified and the lack of confidence in VHA adequately and timely fixing the root causes of these issues,” VA Inspector General Michael Missal wrote.

“Further, shortages of medical equipment and supplies continued to occur…, confirming that problems persisted despite these measures,” Missal said.

“The department considers this an urgent patient-safety issue,” the statement said. “VA is conducting a swift and comprehensive review into these findings. VA’s top priority is to ensure that no patient has been harmed. If appropriate, additional disciplinary actions will be taken in accordance with the law.”

The inspector general’s investigation, which stemmed from an anonymous complaint on March 21, found that during the past three years, there have been 194 reports that patient safety has been compromised because of insufficient equipment.

Among the findings:

• In February 2016, a tray used in repairing jaw fractures was removed from the hospital because of an outstanding invoice to a vendor.

• In April 2016, four prostate biopsies had to be canceled because there were no tools to extract the tissue sample.

• In June 2016, the hospital found one of its surgeons had used expired equipment during a procedure

• In March 2017, the facility found chemical strips used to verify equipment sterilization had expired a month earlier, so tests performed on nearly 400 items were not reliable

Missal said that the practices have placed patients at “unnecessary risk,” though so far, the Office of Inspector General has not determined if patients were harmed.

“The OIG’s work is continuing and will include an assessment of whether patient harm has resulted from any of these inventory practices in its final report on the Medical Center,” he wrote.

New VA Secretary David Shulkin told USA TODAY earlier this week that he welcomes outside oversight with hopes it will help him fix the beleaguered agency.

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