BROCKTON, Mass. (CNN) – Among the worst-documented of the VA horror stories comes from Brockton, Massachusetts, where two veterans languished inside a psychiatric facility for years without treatment.
One of them was there for 8 years after he was admitted before he got his first psychiatric evaluation.
Citing a “troubling pattern,” the letter from the Office of Special Counsel to President Obama says “veterans’ health and safety has been unnecessarily put at risk” because the VA refuses to admit that problems reported by whistleblowers could impact the health of patients.
That is something CNN learned first hand from whistleblowers across the country like Brian Turner. As a scheduling clerk at the VA hospital in San Antonio, Texas, he saw how appointment times were being manipulated to hide excessive waits for care.
He also saw how some veterans were suffering because of it, yet when he blew the whistle, he says he was shut up. “There was never a response back except to get a direct order not to say anything else to anyone…They shut me up the very next day…The very next morning I was called into the office and told not to email another person.”
The Office of Special Counsel says it is currently investigating 50 whistleblower cases that alleged “threats to patient health or safety.”
In Jackson, Mississippi, whistleblowers brought forth a laundry list of complaints including “unlawful prescriptions for narcotics,” “unsterile medical equipment,” and “chronic staffing shortages.”
In Grand Junction, Colorado, the drinking water was tainted with legionella bacteria.
In Montgomery, Alabama, a lung doctor just copied-over patient readings from previous appointments in 1,200 records, instead of putting in current information.
Yet in case after case, the VA’s internal medical review agency refused to admit any patient was harmed, and “failed to use information from whistleblowers to identify and address systemic concerns that impact patient care.”