Documents support claims of fraud, deceit at Texas VA hospitals

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TEMPLE, TX – The scandal surrounding allegations of fraud and corruption at some of the nation’s veterans hospitals has come to Texas.

In January, Joseph Spann, a retired physician with the Texas VA system, sent a letter to the Veterans Administration office of inspector general.

He claimed to have witnessed the system’s chief of radiology ordering doctors in Austin and Temple to change appointment dates that were beyond 30-days so that radiology could stay within its the 30-day guidelines, meaning patients could wait as long as 90 days to get tests.

Spann ended his letter with an allegation that the Texas VA system has a culture of deceit and data manipulation that allows administrators to hit performance measures “that promote only the careers and pay of its administrators and supervisors.”

The VA looked into the allegations, but couldn’t find any proof.

Various news organizations, however, have since received what they say are internal documents, including emails, that appear to back up Spann’s claim.

Among the documents was what appears to be an email from William Harper, the Central Texas Veterans Healthcare System chief of staff, dated Nov. 1, 2011, in which he says changing dates is “essentially fraud.”

“The desired date is what it is, and if we don’t meet the standard then we will work to improve.”

A second email, five days later, appears to back up Spann’s claims.

The doctor writes to colleagues that if the desired date for a radiology procedure doesn’t work, then radiology will cancel it. “End of story.’

At some point, all of this will get sorted out, but will that happen before more vets are harmed, or die, is the question.