AP, Politico, WashPo Reporters Fail to Completely Read Report on Phoenix VA Hospital

As reported on Tuesday night, two of the three major broadcast networks covered a new report from the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Veterans Affairs on the scandal-ridden agency and its Phoenix VA hospital that led to a nationwide investigation of delayed wait times and secret waiting lists. 

While the coverage was mixed with ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer completely omitting the story, the coverage in print and online sources such as Politico, the Associated Press, and The Washington Post completely missed the boat.

In article posted on Politico’s website on Tuesday, the article stated that the VA’s inspector general “faulted the VA for poor standards in scheduling doctors visits and providing health care for veterans but could not link the 28 most egregious delays to any deaths.”

However, upon closer review of the report, its findings suggest otherwise. While the report did conclude that no veterans died directly as result of them waiting to receive care, the article ignored the fact that, on page two of the report’s executive summary, six veterans died while on a waiting list at the Phoenix VA Hospital.

In addition, the Politico story wrote how whistle-blowers have told both the inspector general and Congress “that up to 40 veterans may have died while awaiting care at Phoenix centers,” but that turned out to be “a claim the inspector general could not prove.”

Once again, it is true that report concluded that no veterans died because they did not receive care, it does not deny that veterans died while on the long waiting lists. Just like in the first instance, page two of the executive summary stated that from its review of records at the Phoenix VA hospital: “[W]e were are able to identify 40 patients who died while on the EWL [Electronic Wait List] during the period April 2013 through April 2014.”

The same quote that Politico did not include in theirs was what a Washington Post story on the topic missed as well. In an article published on Tuesday, it told readers: 

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ watchdog confirmed Tuesday that numerous veterans died after receiving poor care in a VA hospital in Phoenix, Ariz., but stopped short of substantiating widely reported allegations that at least 40 veterans died while awaiting care.

Over at the Associated Press, an article from Tuesday evening about the inspector general’s report on the Phoenix VA hospital found a way to contradict itself in a matter of two sentences. In the first sentence, the article stated that: “The report could deflate an explosive allegation that helped launch the scandal in the spring: that as many as 40 veterans died while awaiting care at the Phoenix VA hospital.”

While the article took a shot at whistle-blowers such as Dr. Sam Foote for stepping forward to unveil these disturbing events, the article supported and confirmed Foote’s allegations in the very next sentence with the following: “Investigators identified 40 patients who died while awaiting appointments in Phoenix.” Nice.

— Curtis Houck is News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Curtis Houck on Twitter.