ABC, NBC Egregiously Ignore New VA Reform Bill Becoming Law, Troubles at L.A. V.A. Hospital

For a media wallowing in the toxic political culture, one would think Friday’s bill signing of a massive overhaul at the scandal-ridden Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) would provide a chance to show that Washington has accomplished something. Alas, it was not to be as ABC and NBC refused to directly cover this bipartisan achievement for the Trump administration.

Since Friday’s signing of the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, CBS dedicated two minutes and 32 second to the law on Friday’s CBS Evening News and 12 seconds on CBS This Morning: Saturday (more on that later).

Pathetically, ABC’s Good Morning America used B-roll footage on Saturday from Friday’s ceremony during its lead story by correspondent David Wright about the Russia investigation, Jim Comey, and special counsel Robert Mueller’s future.

NBC’s Today did their best on Saturday morning to rival ABC in the zero-shame category, referring to either Shulkin or an unnamed “bill signing” three times during Saturday morning’s newscast.

Both in the 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. Eastern hours, correspondent Kelly O’Donnell invoked Shulkin when Trump humorously joked about firing him. Here’s the 7:00 a.m. hour transcript:

O’DONNELL: And the nation's first reality TV president had little fun on Friday, bringing back his old Apprentice tag line and boardroom move, poking fun at his Veterans Affairs secretary, mouthing the words “you're fired.”

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: That one never fails, does it, Don?

O’DONNELL: And the President has teased cabinet members before about firing them. And that was only in jest. But of course, the firing of James Comey had big consequences.

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Now, Kelly, how was Trump in a position to joke about firing Dr. Shulkin? Oh, right, there was the signing of a law to fix one of many Barack Obama scandals. Then again, your industry wasn’t a huge fan of admitting that back in 2014, as my colleague Scott Whitlock wrote here and here.

Also in the 7:00 a.m. hour, correspondent Morgan Radford referred to a “bill signing” in her story about Johnny Depp’s threatening Trump comments when referencing comments attendee and Trump supporter Al Baldasaro made last year about Hillary Clinton. 

Radford followed ABC’s Matt Gutman during Friday’s World News Tonight in how he brought up the White House event without saying what it was for.

This all being said, credit is due to CBS for spending time on this. Interim CBS Evening News anchor Anthony Mason reported on Friday:

President Trump signed a bill today giving top-ranking officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs more power to fire incompetent workers and protect whistle blowers. The agency has struggled to provide health care other and other services to military veterans. The legislation was prompted by a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix V.A. Medical Center where many veterans died while waiting months to see a doctor.

Correspondent Mireya Villareal used this to cover how the L.A. V.A. hospital was another decimated with veterans dying on wait lists. Along with story about how such wait lists led to veteran Allen Hoffman to pass away, Villareal dropped this stunning finding:

A new report by the V.A. Inspector General shows 43 percent of the 225 patients who died between October 2014 and August 2015 at the Los Angeles V.A. were waiting for appointments or needed tests they never got, although the report does not conclude these patients died as a result of delayed consults. 

“I first noticed an unusual number of patients who were presenting with delayed diagnosis, meaning that they presented to the system, they disappeared for a number of years, and then they presented late with advanced cancers. Those consults were being deleted, literally removed from the system,” V.A. Doctor and L.A. whistleblower Charles Head added.

In addition, Telemundo and Univision continued their blackout on the story, following their pattern of no coverage from when it successfully passed Congress earlier in the month.

 

Here’s the relevant portions of the transcript from June 23's CBS Evening News:

CBS Evening News
June 23, 2017
6:30 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Waiting for Care]

ANTHONY MASON: Also tonight, the President takes action to fix the V.A., as a new report shows dozens of vets died waiting for appointments in Los Angeles. 

MIREYA VILLARREAL [TO HOFFMAN]: Was there any doubt in your mind that they were responsible for your husband’s death? 

SUSAN HOFFMAN: Definitely, they were. 

(....)

6:33 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Helping Veterans]

MASON: President Trump signed a bill today giving top-ranking officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs more power to fire incompetent workers and protect whistle blowers. The agency has struggled to provide health care other and other services to military veterans. 

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Waiting for Care]

The legislation was prompted by a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix V.A. Medical Center where many veterans died while waiting months to see a doctor. As Mireya Villarreal reports, the problem was even worse at the lo Los Angeles V.A. 

VILLARREAL: Susan and Allen Hoffman were happily married for 43 years, but the Navy veteran was living in pain. 

HOFFMAN: He had an enlarged prostate and they just kept saying, “It's not a problem,” you know, whatever. And then it started to get worse. 

VILLARREAL: He was scheduled to see a specialist in May 2013, but she says that didn't happen. 

HOFFMAN: She said: “no, you're here just fair consult. You have to understand people have cancer and he doesn't so...." 

VILLARREAL: And then you were escorted out the door pretty much. 

HOFFMAN: Yeah. I think we were there 15 minutes. 

VILLARREAL: Allen Hoffman was diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer. A new report by the V.A. Inspector General shows 43 percent of the 225 patients who died between October 2014 and August 2015 at the Los Angeles V.A. were waiting for appointments or needed tests they never got, although the report does not conclude these patients died as a result of delayed consults. 

DR. CHRISTIAN HEAD: The number of patients waiting for care, the lesions of consults, and the wait lists were much more significant here than at Phoenix. 

VILLARREAL: Dr. Christian Head is a surgeon at the L.A. V.A. He says 140,000 patient consults were deliberately deleted. 

HEAD: I first noticed an unusual number of patients who were presenting with delayed diagnosis, meaning that they presented to the system, they disappeared for a number of years, and then they presented late with advanced cancers. Those consults were being deleted, literally removed from the system. 

VILLARREAL: Allen Hoffman died a year and a half later. The V.A. has settled out of court with his widow. [TO HOFFMAN] There was any doubt in your mind that they were responsible for your husband's death? 

HOFFMAN: Definitely they were. 

VILLARREAL: The V.A. would not comment about Hoffman's case or Dr. Head's allegations, but the LA's hospital director admits these problems are serious. To fix them, they've hired new leadership, are retraining employees and now posting wait times online.


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