Records of dead veterans were changed or physically altered, some even in recent weeks, to hide how many people died while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA hospital, a whistle-blower told CNN in stunning revelations that point to a new coverup in the ongoing VA scandal.
“Deceased” notes on files were removed to make statistics look better, so veterans would not be counted as having died while waiting for care, Pauline DeWenter said.
DeWenter should know. DeWenter is the actual scheduling clerk at the Phoenix VA who said for the better part of a year she was ordered by supervisors to manage and handle the so-called “secret waiting list,” where veterans’ names of those seeking medical care were often placed, sometimes left for months with no care at all.
For these reasons, DeWenter is among the most important and central people to the Phoenix VA scandal over a secret wait list, veterans’ wait times and deaths. Despite being in the center of the storm, DeWenter has never spoken publicly about any of it — the secret list, the altering of records, the dozens of veterans she believes have died waiting for care — until now.
It was one of DeWenter’s roles to call veterans when appointments became available to schedule them to get a consultation. Sometimes when she made those calls, she’d find that the veteran had died, so she would enter that on their records.
But at least seven times since last October, records that showed that veterans died while waiting for care — records which DeWenter personally handled and had entered in details of veterans’ deaths — were physically altered, or written over, by someone else, DeWenter said in an exclusive interview with CNN. The changes, or re-writes, listed the veterans as living, not deceased, essentially hiding their deaths.
The alterations had even occurred in recent weeks, she said, in a deliberate attempt to try to hide just how many veterans died while waiting for care, by trying to pretend dead veterans remain alive.
“Because by doing that, that placed (the veterans) back on the wait list,” said DeWenter, explaining she believes that the purpose of “bringing them back to life” in the paperwork and putting the veterans back on the electronic waiting list was to hide the fact that veterans died waiting for care.
“I would say (it was done to) hide the fact. Because it is marked a death. And that death needs to be reported. So if you change that to, ‘entered in error’ or, my personal favorite, ‘no longer necessary,’ that makes the death go away. So the death would never be reported then.”
SOURCE: Scott Bronstein, Drew Griffin and Nelli Black