Phoenix Wait-Lists 'Contributed' to VA Deaths
Delays caused by secret waiting lists "contributed" to deaths at the Phoenix VA earlier this year, an assistant inspector general who helped draft a controversial Inspector General report admitted today under intense questioning by the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
The assertion by Dr. John Daigh comes less than a month after the Office of the Inspector General proclaimed in its official report that it is "unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely care caused the deaths of these veterans."
Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., asked Daigh whether he could "conclusively assert that wait-lists did not contribute to the deaths of veterans?"
"No," Daigh replied.
When asked whether he'd be "willing to say wait-lists contributed to the deaths," Daigh responded, "Yes."
It was a startling admission, following complaints that the OIG softened the report at the VA's request. The sentence about being "unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely care caused the deaths of these veterans" was not in the first draft of the report and only appeared in the final draft after the VA had a chance to review and comment privately on it.
Daigh also said that while he could not say "the delays caused the deaths," he also could not say they didn't.
That caused Jolly to ask him whether such was the case, and why put one assertion in the report but not the other.
"The issue is cause or, of course, a direct relationship, how tight of a relationship do you want? That's where the difficulty is here," Daigh said.
Daigh said earlier in the testimony "I'm not clairvoyant. It's very difficult to know how someone died."
The acting inspector general, Richard J. Griffin, added "We don't know how they died or why. Nor do you, I would say that it may have contributed to their death, but we can't say, conclusively, it caused their death."
The Inspector General's Office also suffered severe criticism from two whistle-blowers testifying before the Veterans Affairs committee. Dr. Samuel Foote and Dr. Katherine Mitchell scolded the OIG for downplaying the causation and link between wait times and deaths.
"I would like to use this statement to comment on what I view as the foot-dragging, downplaying and, frankly, inadequacy of the Inspector General's Office," Foote said.