Veterans Affairs bureaucracy stonewalls Florida health agency


By William Patrick | Florida Watchdog

DENIED: State health inspectors have been denied access to documents at six different VA hospitals.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Ailing veterans apparently aren’t the only ones waiting to receive services from Veterans Affairs hospitals.

So is the state of Florida.

Inspectors from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration tried to conduct an onsite review at the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center in Gainesville this week, but were denied access to requested documents.

It’s the second time in five weeks state health officials visited the Gainesville VA. The recent attempt was prompted by the “discovery of a secret waiting list.”

According to an agency spokesperson, AHCA became aware of the waiting list from a news report published by the Gainesville Sun, “Source: 3 suspended at Gainesville VA over mental health waiting list.” The list included over 200 patients.

Liz Dudek, secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, said in a statement her staff was denied access to review VA hospital system processes Monday.

“The VA has repeatedly denied the agency access to review processes and procedures, and has yet to acknowledge receipt of the agency’s Freedom of Information Act request that was filed 20 days ago. I am shocked at the VA’s lack of urgency and expected the VA to take this issue seriously given the repeated calls for action and transparency,” Dudek said.

The Gainesville stonewalling appears to be part of a larger pattern.

Since April 3, AHCA inspectors have been denied access to documents at six VA facilities across the state: West Palm Beach VA Medical Center, Bay Pines Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Hames A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Miami VA Medical Center, Malcom Randall VA Regional Medical Center, and Lake City VA Medical Center.

“We were turned away each time we attempted to complete an onsite review,” Shelisha Coleman, press secretary for AHCA, told

Inspectors were seeking information about the risk management and quality assurance process used by the Veterans Integrated Service Network 8 hospitals. Also known as the VA Sunshine Healthcare Network, VISN 8 is the nation’s largest system of hospitals and clinics serving 1.6 million veterans across Florida, South Georgia, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

AHCA administers Florida’s Medicaid program, and licenses and regulates more than 45,000 health care facilities and 34 health maintenance organizations.

“It is time for the VA to stop hiding behind bureaucratic rhetoric and take the necessary steps to ensure our brave veterans receive the quality healthcare they deserve in a reasonable timeframe,” Dudek said.

Contact William Patrick at