After 19 veterans died due to a delays in medical screenings, the Department of Veterans Affairs has blocked the release of the names of the hospitals where those patients were treated.
According to a CNN report, at least 19 veterans died and over 60 were injured because of the delays in simple medical screenings at VA hospitals and clinics in recent months. The report cited several examples of individuals who sought treatment at a VA hospital but were either given the wrong diagnosis or failed to have their issue properly identified.
In response to the report, Tampa Tribune writer Howard Altman filed a Freedom of Information Request in order to obtain the names of the hospitals where these deaths occurred. Altman’s request was denied.
The issue has caught the attention of several prominent politicians. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), for instance, is pushing for the release of the names of the hospital in order to provide more transparency for everyone.
“The veterans have the right to know which hospitals are the ones that (are) not doing prompt consults when they have medical screenings they need. Then they hear stories about deaths occurring because screening was not done. Our veterans deserve the right to know that information so they can make choices because the whole VA medical system is designed to take care of them,” Nelson said.
Despite concerns, a VA spokesman ensured the Free Beacon that the Freedom of Information request was denied only because of a lack of specific data.
“The specific information that was requested is preliminary and has not been validated and finalized. That information would include possible locations where consult delays may have occurred, as well as actual numbers pertaining to delays. Until the Department has reviewed and validated the preliminary data, VA’s FOIA Office has determined that it is part of the deliberative process. Because of potential variances in the preliminary data, premature release of this information would inaccurately inform the public concerning this matter. VA is committed to providing complete and precise data about this extremely important issue,” the spokesman said.
The V.A. is consistently criticized and scrutinized by veterans looking to reform the system, and this refusal to release crucial information demonstrates the department's unwillingness to cooperate.