WATCHDOG SAYS IG DROPPED BALL ON VA PROBE, TRIED TO ‘DISCREDIT’ WHISTLEBLOWERS — FOX NEWS A top government watchdog on Thursday accused the central agency tasked with holding Veterans Affairs accountable of dropping the ball — by failing to properly investigate whistleblower claims of secret wait lists at Shreveport, La., and Chicago hospitals where thousands of veterans languished up to 15 months without care. Further, Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said the VA’s Office of Inspector General even tried to “discredit the whistleblowers” who brought the allegations by focusing on a narrow aspect of the case. “The OIG investigations that the VA submitted … are incomplete. They do not respond to the issues that the whistleblowers raised,” Lerner wrote to President Obama. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel reports directly to the president and investigates claims of whistleblower retaliation. It has no direct authority over the VA, but the letter sent to Obama and Congress on Thursday represents a stark challenge to the supposedly independent review conducted by the VA inspector general. World War II veteran waits nearly 12 hours in VA emergency room
EX-NURSE AT ALBANY VA ADMITS TAMPERING WITH VETS’ MEDICATION — WASHINGTON TIMES A former nurse at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Albany faces prison time for replacing patients’ pain medications with a medicine that treats mood disorders. Federal prosecutors say 30-year-old Nathan Baum of East Greenbush pleaded guilty Wednesday to tampering with a consumer product and obtaining controlled substances by deception. Authorities say Baum was working as a licensed practical nurse in the hospice ward at Albany’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center when he removed oxycodone hydrochloride from at least 25 syringes during a five-week period in the spring of 2014.
SENATE NEEDS TO TAKE UP VA ACCOUNTABILITY ACT — LAS VEGAS REVIEW JOURNAL Spend some time with military veterans, and you’ll hear a common theme: frustration and despair at the difficulty of dealing with the bureaucracy of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Those concerns have taken on a greater sense of urgency over the last two years, as the VA’s deep dysfunction has been exposed and Americans have come to understand how the department is failing veterans. But there is a remedy, and it begins with greater accountability for VA employees. An endless stream of media reports, government inspections and congressional investigations have revealed the ugly truth about impenetrable bureaucracy, a never-ending backlog of veterans disability claims, inexcusably long wait times for health care, epic waste of taxpayer dollars and other abuse. Nevada veterans are well aware of these problems. The Reno VA Regional Office was named in 2014 as the worst in the nation for processing claims, and still ranks as a poor performer, while long wait times for health care are typical at the VA medical center in North Las Vegas.
VA PROGRAM PART OF BROADER PRECISION MEDICINE EFFORT — ARMYTIMES Precision medicine has the potential to cure cancers, wipe out rare diseases and improve overall health, and the Veterans Affairs Department will play a major role in its future research, President Obama said Thursday at a White House summit on genetic medicine. With the Million Veteran Program, VA will provide an invaluable tool for scientists to use to advance research, Obama said. “The VA has been gathering genomic data on a large number of men and women who have served their country, in order to serve them better in the VA system. But this can be connected with researchers in a university setting who are focused on a specific disease, and they can use this big data to accelerate the research,” Obama said. The Million Veteran Program, launched in 2012, is the department’s effort to build the largest blood repository in the world for research purposes. The vast database contains information from the blood samples and medical histories of 455,000 veterans, with more being added each day, said Million Veterans Program principal investigator Dr. J. Michael Gaziano.