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West Virginia doctor claims patients on VA waiting list committed suicide

 

A West Virginia doctor is coming forward with new allegations against the Department of Veterans Affairs, claiming that she too was told to put patients seeking treatment off for months on end -- and that at least two of them committed suicide. 

The claims add to the mounting controversy surrounding the VA, and allegations in several states that workers were concealing information about the long wait times veterans encountered. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki testified last week before Congress on the scandal, but so far has resisted calls for his resignation. 

Dr. Margaret Moxness, who says she was employed at the Huntington VA Medical Center in Charleston, W.Va., from 2008 to 2010, told "Fox & Friends" on Monday that she was told to delay treatment even after she told supervisors they needed immediate care. She said at least two patients committed suicide while waiting for treatment between appointments. 

“I was in a very tight-knit community,” Moxness said. “There was lots of extracurricular support: family, faith, vet centers. So we had help, but no thanks to the VA. …I mean, these men were eventually going to need more than a visit every 10 months.” 

Moxness, a psychiatrist, says the VA administrators lost touch with patients and claims they were compassionless.

“They don’t really experience what the doctors and nurses are experiencing, which is the suffering and the pain and the death,” she said.

Calls to the VA for comment on Moxness' allegations have not been returned. 

Moxness, who is currently writing a book on suicide, said her patients would be forced to wait  “months” for a second visit. She said that “means they’re partially treated, which means they’re worse off than no treatment at all.”

Moxness said when she complained to her supervisors that it was harmful to partially treat patients, they stopped talking to her.

“I was functionally silenced,” she said.

Whistle-blowers in Texas and Missouri have also discussed with Fox News their allegations of long delays and poor treatment in VA facilities. 

Responding to the controversy, the Obama administration on Friday announced the resignation of the top VA health official, Under Secretary for Health Robert Petzel -- a day after that official testified alongside Shinseki. Petzel, though, had already been planning to retire this year. 

The VA has also put three senior officials in Phoenix on administrative leave after doctors there said they were ordered to hold veterans' names for months on a secret waiting list until a spot opened up on an official list that met the agency's two-week waiting time goals.

Allegations have been reported about similar cover-up schemes at VA medical facilities in at least seven other cities. 

The Huntington VA Medical Center has 80 beds. In 2008, it provided care to 293,000 outpatients and 4,200 inpatients.