VA hospital scandal so far: malfeasance yes, murder no

We now have an early report from the Veterans Affair’s inspector general, and the observations are cause for concern, anger and possibly prosecution.

What they are not is a confirmation of the most explosive charges, that waiting lists at the VA hospital in Phoenix caused 40 deaths.  That was the emotional hook on which news media filled the vast three-day emptiness of the Memorial Day weekend. The IG’s office has so far investigated 17 of those deaths and found them unrelated to waiting lists at the hospital.

Waiting lists at VA hospitals are not a new complaint. These waits involved primary care.  Do bear in mind that hospitals in Sunbelt cities experience a surge in patient population during the winter months, when retirees migrate to warm places.

The IG did say that staff at some VA hospitals prepared secret lists to make the waits appear shorter. That would be serious malfeasance, yes.  Murder, no.

There is a political side to this.  Republicans in March defeated legislation that would have expanded health and dental care for veterans and authorized new VA clinics and medical facilities. Their reasons were budgetary and frankly honest. They want smaller government.