Approximately 307,000, actually. And counting, of course. To put that in perspective, in none of America's wars has the country suffered that many combat deaths, and in only two - the Civil War (~750,000) and World War II (405,399) did we sustain that many deaths overall.
The difference, of course, is that in all those earlier instances, those casualties were inflicted by the enemy; in this case, they were inflicted by our own government.
However, due to data limitations, we could not determine specifically how many pending E[nrollment] S[ystem] records represent veterans who applied for health care benefits. These conditions occurred because the enrollment program did not effectively define, collect, and manage enrollment data. In addition, VHA lacked adequate procedures to identify date of death information and implement necessary updates to the individual’s status. Unless VHA officials establish effective procedures to identify deceased individuals and accurately update their status, ES will continue to provide unreliable information on the status of applications for veterans seeking enrollment in the VA health care system.
[W]e substantiated the fourth allegation that the H[ealth] E[ligibility] C[enter] identified more than eleven thousand unprocessed health care applications and about twenty-eight thousand transactions related to application updates, correspondence, and alerts in January 2013. However, the oldest unprocessed health care application had a date of September 2012, only four months prior to discovery. This backlog developed because the HEC did not adequately monitor and manage its workload and lacked controls to ensure entry of WRAP workload into ES.
.... and record-keeping....:
We substantiated the third allegation that employees incorrectly marked unprocessed applications as completed and possibly deleted ten thousand or more transactions from the Workload Reporting and Productivity (WRAP) tool over the past five years. While the HEC often deleted transactions for legitimate purposes, such as the removal of duplicate transactions, information security deficiencies within WRAP limited our ability to review some issues fully and rule out manipulation of data. [emphasis added]
Rather than fixing all these problems and putting procedures and controls in place to prevent their recurrence AND accountability standards that would discourage such a deliberately and callously slipshod system from slaying veterans with the blade of neglect and incompetence, the fiasco was all covered up at every level, as the final sentence of the previous quote foreshadows:
However, according to a December 2010 memorandum provided by the former Deputy Director at the HEC, management determined in a subsequent review that applications were missing from ES. HEC management identified individual HEC staff who had incorrectly marked applications as complete in WRAP and had hidden the applications in their desks for processing at a later time. According to the HEC memorandum, a CBO human resources management official advised them against pursuing disciplinary action against staff because HEC leadership implemented the work process and thus had contributed to the situation (human resources management officers are responsible for advising management concerning employee relations issues in accordance with VA Handbook 5001, Part II, Paragraph 6). [emphases added]
And the greater the outside scrutiny, the more furious and far-reaching becomes the coverup:
The data manipulation happened last year when there was heightened scrutiny nationwide over how long veterans were waiting to see doctors. The electronic records altered in Honolulu dealt with benefits claims, not medical appointments. But the finding underscores that there are ongoing problems within the system. [emphasis added]
And just to reiterate, this is not, nor has it ever, been a matter of insufficient funding:
Some VA supporters might consider just increasing funds for training and staff, but the VA has seen its budget grow from $87.6 billion in 2009 to $152.7 billion in 2014. The 2016 budget [demand] is $165.5 billion. This includes $70.2 billion in discretionary spending, with $63 billion going to medical care. So the department is asking for plenty of money to “help” veterans, but isn’t spending the money wisely.
Only in government could it possibly be the case that a failing department would be rewarded with ever-escalating tsunamis of cash for its self-same failures, which, naturally, only incentivizes more failure and less accountablity for it other than in a purely external, public relations sense at the top. Which pretty much describes how VA Commissar Eric Shinseki was cashiered a year ago and replaced by Robert McDonald without the VA's bureaucratic machinery of slaughter missing a cruel and grisly beat.
It evokes something that the twenty century's greatest president once said.
And remember once again, folks: This is the "health care" system Barack Obama and the Left want to force on the rest of us.
Taylor Millard lays out what must be done if anybody in this country is the remotest bit interested in actually solving this mess:
It’s time for the federal government to gradually start closing down the VA department. The move will probably take at least twenty years with a gradual reduction of benefits until the budget reaches zero. What the government could do instead is start partnering up with military charities. This doesn’t mean giving them money, but simply giving them access. If a vet is in the hospital, then the charities could be allowed to hand out information on what they do and how they help. Veterans looking to get medical care should be allowed to go to their own doctors, instead of VA Hospitals.
That is a fine and pleasant proposal, my boy. But in the words of the late Montgomery Scott, "Aye; and if my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a wagon". For if there's one constant in the universe, it is that "the more they complicate the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain." And that is the only mode of "plumbing" that we will ever be allowed, because We the People will always keep electing those "plumbers". Unstopping the drain, in short, is not and never will be an option.
And that, vets and currently serving U.S. military personnel, is what you're fighting for.
How's that for a pre-battle pep talk?