AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

VA misled Congress and the press, audit finds; report echoes agency credibility problems identified by AJC investigation

The VA's credibility was questioned again this week with the release of an audit that found the agency misled Congress and the media amid the wait time scandal earlier this year. The report by the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General found the agency put out misleading information about the number of veterans who died or suffered serious harm waiting for care, according to a story at CNN.com.

The bad info was linked to a fact sheet the agency released in April that showed 23 veterans died and 76 suffered serious harm while waiting for care. The VA said its analysis went back to 1999, but auditors found the analysis only went back to 2007. The fact sheet was plagued by a number of errors and it raises questions about how many veterans had their appointments deleted without receiving treatment, according to CNN.

The agency apologized earlier this year and said it wasn't trying to mislead anyone.

Congressman Jeff Miller, R-Florida, who chairs the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, said the department's stats are so inaccurate that "we may never know the actual number of veterans affected by gaps in the VA system that existed for years.

The inspector general's report issued Monday echoes VA credibility problems the AJC uncovered in October. We found the agency put out misleading and untrue information to veterans, the public and Congress in an effort to blunt a potential scandal about a health application backlog of hundreds of thousands of veterans. The backlog, first reported by the AJC, highlights problems with the VA's national health enrollment system overseen by the Health Eligibility Center based in Atlanta.

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About the Author

Brad Schrade is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter on the AJC’s investigative team.