Following reports of falsified appointment books at a Peru, Indiana Veterans’ Affairs clinic, two of the state’s U.S. House members want answers.
Former Veterans’ Affairs committee member Jackie Walorski (R-2nd) and current member Jim Banks (R-3rd) signed a letter wanting to know why one medical professional at the Peru clinic reported serving many more patients than she actually saw.
That revelation comes from a VA report leaked to a Fort Wayne newspaper.
The report also says some servicemembers had their painkiller prescriptions curtailed without ever receiving an in-person consultation.
Banks, a veteran who’s served multiple tours of duty in the Middle East, says he thinks his committee is pushing in a bipartisan way to fix the VA – an agency which saw Obama-era secretary Eric Shinseki resign in light of another incident where clinics’ books were being cooked to make it appear wait times for appointments were less than they actually were.
"I do think that the larger the VA becomes, the more bureaucratic it becomes, that means the administration of the VA is not as closely in tune with what’s occurring directly on the ground and serving the veteran population,” Banks says.
Banks says his solution is to let more private clinics serve veterans, rather than forcing them to rely on federal government facilities.
“We need to expand the choice program so that overall they have the opportunity of choice to figure out what is best for them," he says. "That's the bigger vision that I think most, especially Republicans, are united around on Capitol Hill, along with the administration, who believes that as well.”
However, Banks could not say how his solution would solve a key record-keeping problem – the fact that private clinics are not currently subject to the same reporting standards that VA clinics are. Without additional public information requirements put on those clinics, it could be just as hard in the future to determine if veterans are receiving adequate care.
Officials with Fort Wayne-based VA Northern Indiana Health System, which oversees the Peru clinic, declined a taped interview. A spokesperson instead sent a statement saying only that the organization is addressing the problems outlined in the report and will respond to Congress in a timely fashion.