ABC and NBC continued their tradition of ignoring the latest controversy surrounding the Veterans Affairs department. On Monday morning, only CBS This Morning covered the news that the VA has problems paying veterans for service-related injuries with NBC's Today and ABC's Good Morning America ignoring the developments.
On the evening of July 14, only the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley covered the latest revelations while ABC World News with Diane Sawyer and NBC Nightly News were nowhere to be found.
CBS provided only 21 seconds of coverage on the VA Monday morning, but their nightly news program provided a full 2 minute and 19 second report on how “some employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs altered records to make it appear that vets were receiving disability checks faster than they actually were. This comes after investigators found that some VA employees had cooked the books on wait times for medical visits.”
Furthermore, CBS Evening News had an exclusive interview with VA whistleblower Kristen Ruell as she prepared to testify before Congress. Ruell claimed that “it didn't matter, in our office how old the claim was. They didn't want any claims older than a certain date so they would put a memo on the claims so that the claims would look new.”
Instead of covering the recent developments, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer ran a full report on the record number of Great White Sharks being spotted off of America’s coast. NBC Nightly News found time to talk about the so-called “super moon” that appeared over the weekend rather than inform its viewers about the latest in the scandal-plagued Veterans Affairs department.
See relevant transcript below.
CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley
July 14, 2104
SCOTT PELLEY: This evening we’re hearing for the first time about allegations that some employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs altered records to make it appear that vets were receiving disability checks faster than they actually were. This comes after investigators found that some VA employees had cooked the books on wait times for medical visits. A key witness will testify tonight to Congress but you’re going to hear from her first in this story from Wyatt Andrews.
KRISTEN RUELL: I thought that we were supposed to come help veterans.
WYATT ANDREWS: Kristen Ruell is a whistleblower who handles compensation claims at the VA regional office in Philadelphia. In testimony to Congress, Ruell says VA employees have been instructed to falsely change the date of when veterans first apply for disability benefits. The idea, she says, is to make the wait times look shorter. She says thousands of vets who may have waited years for a disability decision are reported in the system to have waited weeks.
RUELL: It didn't matter, in our office how old the claim was. They didn't want any claims older than a certain date so they would put a memo on the claims so that the claims would look new.
ANDREWS: Do we have any idea how many veterans this applies to?
RUELL: I can say for sure there’s thousands that were done in my office
ANDREWS: Ruell says that changing the date hurts the veterans who’ve waited the longest because the oldest claims are supposed to be handled first.
RUELL: Some of the veterans have died waiting for their claim to be processed and if it has a newer date of claim it's not a priority.
ANDREWS: The VA's Office of Inspector General has confirmed her charge of date changing, saying the practice “makes the average number of days that claims have been pending appear better than it would be.” VA headquarters has begun an investigation to learn if disability wait times are falsely reported nationwide. In a statement the VA promises veterans that all claims impacted by this will be identified and corrective action will be taken. Ruell’s charge of fake wait times for disability sounds close to the now proven charge of fake wait times for health care. She says it’s for the same reason, looking good to line up bonuses. Scott, her testimony comes as the VA is claiming great success reducing the disability backlog.
PELLEY: Wyatt Andrews in our Washington newsroom. Wyatt thank you.