VA 'Brought Patients Back to Life' to Disguise Wait List Deaths

Cliff Owen/AP

Workers at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs facility covered up the deaths of patients who passed away while on waiting lists, according to a new report from CNN

Pauline DeWenter, a scheduling clerk at the Phoenix VA, told CNN that "'Deceased' notes on files were removed to make statistics look better," and that "at least seven times since last October, records that showed that veterans died while waiting for care ... were physically altered, or written over, by someone else." 

Records were changed, DeWenter said, to hide the fact that patients had died during lengthy waits to schedule care appointments at the hospital. In other words, she said the VA was in the business of "bringing them back to life," to avoid looking worse than it already did.

CNN reported in April that as many as 40 veterans had died waiting for care, and in late May the VA copped to long wait times, extending the limit to 30 days from 14. On Monday, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel released a report that confirmed extensive misconduct and dysfunction at VA facilities. 

In addition to being ordered to hide deaths, DeWenter said that she often "tried to work these scheduled appointments so at least I felt the sickest of the sick were being treated" and was "making life and death decisions."

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