AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Top VA executive in Atlanta following report on veteran backlog deaths

The VA's Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson met this week with whistleblower Scott Davis who helped expose widespread problems at the agency's national health enrollment office in Atlanta.

In addition to his sit-down with Davis for about 10 or 15 minutes, he met with management at the HEC facility and held a town hall with employees. He also met with Veterans Service Organization officials in Atlanta.

Davis was the chief whistleblower who first brought problems at the HEC to the public's attention in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation last year. He then testified before a Congressional veterans oversight committee in July 2014.

Gibson did not issue a statement following his visit, but he has another HEC stop again next month.

Davis said he was encouraged by his initial visit.

“He was candid in his desire to get on top of the problem," Davis said. "He was candid in terms of acknowledging the significance of the problem.”

The AJC investigation exposed the HEC's mishandling of thousands of veterans health applications and later revealed a pending backlog of more than 800,000 applications, including 48,000 on the pending list who were dead.

The inspector general's audit revealed that more than 300,000 on the list were actually dead, but the record keeping within the system overseen by the HEC was so bad that it was impossible to tell how many had actually applied for care.

In fact, the system's data was so poorly managed that it was impossible for auditors to determine how many of the more than 800,000 veterans on the pending list had actually applied for care.

The VA's Office of inspector General report plus Gibson's meeting with Davis on Tuesday marked a vindication of sorts for the whistleblower who has had his credibility challenged since he first went public last year. The OIG report release said it had substantiated his claims.

“I think this is a vindication in terms of getting the issue addressed and exposing the harm done to veterans," Davis said.

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About the Author

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