AUGUSTA – U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, the Ranking Democrat on Congress’ Veterans Affairs Committee, on Thursday refused to accept any responsibility for the corruption scandal that has resulted in the deaths of at least 23 U.S. military veterans.
Asked whether he takes any responsibility for the fraudulent scheme that now involves at least two-thirds of the nation’s VA medical facilities, Michaud, the Democratic candidate for governor, side-stepped the question and instead blamed his opponents, Republican Gov. Paul LePage and independent Eliot Cutler.
TMW: “Congressman, Do you take any responsibility for the scandal unfolding at the Veterans Affairs administration?”
Michaud: “That is, I’ll be working in a bipartisan manner. And, and like Chairman Miller, my Republican colleague has said, uh, that this is not a political issue and it’s unfortunate that my two opponents have turned it into a political issue and I look forward to addressing those shortcomings. Very glad that we’ve had the oversight on the committee, like the Legislature tries to have the oversight here in the Maine Legislature but it gets stopped by our Governor by refusing have the departments testify before the committee. That’s uncalled for. That’s not leadership. That’s not governing. So we’re gonna address the scandal that has happened in Phoenix, Arizona and some of the other issues. But we’re doing it in a bipartisan manner the way leadership should truly work.”
Allegations of systemic fraud and corruption within the veterans health care system surfaced last month following a CNN investigation.
Subsequent investigation by the VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) found hundreds of federal employees had engaged in a scheme to manipulate wait-lists, creating the false appearance that VA medical centers were performing better than they really were. The motivation for falsifying wait-time data reportedly stems from the VA’s cash bonus system, which rewarded employees at facilities with short waiting periods.
The manipulation of wait-time measurements and other performance data resulted in severe delays for veterans seeking care. In at least 23 instances, according to VA Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), veterans may have died prematurely as a result of delays.
Forty-two VA facilities are currently under federal investigation. According to the OIG’s report, the wait-time fraud may have occurred in up to two-thirds of all 216 veterans health care facilities across the country.
The OIG report also says the allegations of waste, fraud and corruption within the VA health care system are not new. The report states: “The issues identified in current allegations are not new. Since 2005, the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) has issued 18 reports that identified, at both the national and local levels, deficiencies in scheduling resulting in lengthy waiting times and the negative impact on patient care.”
Those 18 reports warning about problems in the VA system were delivered to the VA Committee on which Michaud has served for 12 years.