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Group hammers VA for veterans' deaths

Conservative group expands on legislators' criticism

Feb. 18, 2014 - 12:12PM   |  
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The conservative advocacy group Concerned Veterans for America unveiled a new online campaign Tuesday that bluntly states: “American veterans are dying, it’s the VA’s fault.”

The line, pulled from a CNN piece earlier this year, refers to VA Inspector General findings of 31 preventable deaths at Veterans Affairs Department medical centers nationwide in recent months. The deaths have been the focus of increased scrutiny from congressional Republicans, who have accused VA leaders of failing to hold employees accountable for a variety of failures.

The CVA effort — online at vaaccountability.org — is a continuation of that criticism. Organizers note that no senior officials have been fired over the preventable deaths or problems such as the ongoing disability claims backlog,

“Overall, VA is a calcified bureaucracy unable to meet the basic needs of veterans,” the new website states. “VA responds to criticism by denying problems, stonewalling inquiries, and finding quick fixes to distract the media and watchdog groups.”

VA officials have dismissed the accountability criticism in recent months. In a statement to the media last week, they said the preventable deaths are being investigated seriously, and are not indicative of widespread incompetence or apathy.

“VA has established a record of safe, exceptional health care that is consistently recognized by independent reviews and organizations,” the statement said. “We take seriously any issue that occurs at any one of our thousands of facilities across the country, but these issues are not systemic. Any adverse incident for a veteran within our care is one too many. When an incident occurs in our system we aggressively identify, correct and work to prevent additional risks.”

Those pledges have not proven satisfactory to some critics.

A pair of Republican lawmakers last week introduced new legislation that would make it easier for the secretary of veteran’s affairs to fire senior VA executives. The CVA website asks visitors to lobby Congress to approve that legislation, over the objections of the department.

Pete Hegseth, chief executive officer for CVA, defended the harsh tone of the new website.

“We’re not trying to push or pull anyone from VA services,” he said. “This is veterans calling out a VA that can do better. No one is being held accountable for failure.”

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