Last week, Congressman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, said the panel's investigators concluded as many as 40 Arizona veteran deaths could be related to VA delays in providing them medical care.
Some veterans say wait times now average 55 days!
Miller also said panel investigators had evidence that officials at the Phoenix VA Health Care System kept two sets of records, one public and the other a secret waiting list, to hide lengthy wait times for patients seeking doctor appointments and treatment, the Arizona Republic reported.
Dr. Sam Foote, a former VA doctor in the Phoenix system, told Fox News, "We believe senior management obviously had knowledge of this."
He told CNN that the alleged "secret waiting list" was used by senior management to conceal the fact that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor.
Phoenix VA Health Care System officials said they've asked for an external review by the Inspector General and will address any problems quickly.
Sharon Helman, director of the Phoenix VA system, told the Arizona Republic that she is unaware of any patients who died awaiting care, and that she does not know of any improper manipulation data related to patient access.
Flake told a news conference last week that the Inspector General for the Department of Veterans Affairs also is investigating the complaints about Arizona VA facilities.
So is this a matter of incompetence by a Government-run Healthcare provider? Is this the VA's way of cutting cost for the Obama Administration? Or is this just another Obama Administration plan to let Veterans die?
Today, The nation's largest veteran organization, The American Legion, and one other veterans group, Concerned Veterans for America, on Monday called for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki.
The calls for his resignation came after months of CNN exclusive reporting on U.S. veterans who have died while waiting for care at VA hospitals across the country, including in Phoenix.
"It's not something we do lightly. But we do so today because it is our responsibility as advocate for the men and women who have worn this nation's uniform," said Daniel M. Dellinger, national commander of the American Legion, speaking in Indianapolis.
Responding to the legion's call for the secretary's resignation, the VA issued a statement late Monday:
"Secretary Shinseki has dedicated his life to his fellow veterans, and nobody is more committed to completing the work that lies ahead," said a VA statement by Drew Brookie, VA spokesman. "As the secretary says, providing veterans the quality care and benefits they have earned through their service is our only mission at VA."
VA official says there's no secret list The White House also responded with a statement: "The President remains confident in Secretary Shinseki's ability to lead the department."
The VA acknowledged this April that 23 veterans had died as a result of delayed care in recent years.
A retired VA doctor from Phoenix charged that more than 40 American veterans have died waiting for care at the VA hospital there.
Veterans languish and die on a secret list
VA officials in Phoenix denied there was any secret list or that they had given any orders to cover up or hide wait times. They acknowledged that veterans had died waiting for care but said they did not know whether those deaths were tied to waiting for care.
But following those reports on Friday, Shinseki placed the Phoenix VA Director Sharon Helman and two members of her staff on administrative leave.
On Monday, Dillinger of the American Legion said that growing concerns about the problems at numerous VA facilities are what led him to call for the resignation of Shinseki and two other top VA officials: Under Secretary of Health Robert Petzel and Under Secretary of Benefits Allison Hickey.
"These disturbing reports are part of what appear to be a pattern of scandals that has infected the entire system," Dillinger said Monday.
Another VA facility under the spotlight
Also Monday, the Fort Collins, Colorado, VA facility came under scrutiny as concerns were raised that officials there might have allegedly instructed workers to change records in an effort to make veterans' wait times appear less severe.
"The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs has learned of appointment scheduling manipulation occurring at the Fort Collins, Colorado, Community Based Outpatient Clinic that is remarkably similar to issues recently referred to you regarding the Phoenix VA Medical Center," stated a letter to the VA's Office of Inspector General and signed by Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colorado.
The director of health care at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Congress' watchdog organization, stated that even the VA does not truly know how many American veterans are waiting for care across the country.
Director Debra Draper said that's because they do not keep careful track of how many "consults" or doctor-requested appointments are open at any given time. Draper said some of the VA numbers and details of wait times are "unreliable."
The VA reported that in just the last year, it basically cleared 1.5 million backlogged orders of patient care or services, which they call consults, but Draper said there is no way of knowing why they were closed.
Draper said it is "a little disconcerting that 1.5 million records were closed. ... We can't determine that they did a review, a clinical review and appropriately closed out the consult."
She added that to find out how many consults have been truly closed, "you'd have to really go back to each individual patient record and see how the consult, why it was closed."
The White House has issued a statement supporting VA chief Eric Shinseki.
The Do-Nothing President
U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, issued this statement late Monday:
"For nearly a year, we have been pleading with top department leaders and President Obama to take immediate steps to stop the growing pattern of preventable veteran deaths and hold accountable any and all VA employees who have allowed patients to slip through the cracks.
"In response, we've received disturbing silence from the White House and one excuse after another from VA."
Brookie's statement, released by the VA late Monday, read:
"The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) takes any allegations about patient care or employee misconduct very seriously. If the VA Office of Inspector General's investigation substantiates allegations of employee misconduct, swift and appropriate action will be taken. Veterans deserve to have full faith in their VA care.
"Under the leadership of Secretary Shinseki and his team, VA has made strong progress in recent years to better serve veterans both now and in the future. The secretary knows there is more work to do.
"VA's progress includes enrolling 2 million more veterans in high-quality VA health care, reducing veterans' homelessness by 24 percent, providing post-9/11 GI Bill educational benefits to more than 1 million students, and decreasing the disability claims backlog by nearly 50 percent."
But veterans groups were not convinced. Late Monday, another veterans group joined the American Legion in the call for Shinseki to resign.
Pete Hegseth, CEO of the Concerned Veterans of America, issued the following statement:
"We're proud to stand with The American Legion as they take this courageous and historic stand. As America's largest veterans organization, their moral authority on this issue is unimpeachable. We applaud their demands for accountability at the very top of the Department of Veterans Affairs."
In a statement, the VA said it "cares deeply" for veterans and added that the Phoenix VA took the issues "very seriously" and invited the independent VA Office of the Inspector General to complete a comprehensive review of these allegations."
Yes, that just sounds like more administration bullshit to me too!
If you want to contact the VA Inspector General by phone, please do so at 1-800-488-8244
We should be swamping the Inspector General's office with as many calls as we can make to show our anger with this -- this is not right and we should say so loud and clear!
Friends, it is no secret that this administration hates Veterans -- their attitude toward returning Troops and their huge cuts to the VA proved that!
And yes, that is why I'm asking if this is just another Obama Administration plan to put Veterans last and maybe even let Vets die instead of giving them treatment -- it's something that I've come to expect from the Obama Administration and those of their ilk!
First its the EPA, then the IRS, and after that other Fed Departments followed their example and have since decided to do whatever they please no matter if it is legal or ethical.
This has taken place while the Obama Administration does absolutely NOTHING to fix the problems of out-of-control government agencies who are breaking the law!
While I know Republicans are against this, if you are a Democrat -- you should not be in favor of this. This should not be taking place.
No administration should feel that it is above the law, and believes that it has the freedom to act as crooked and totally unethical as the Obama Administration has.
The VA, the IRS, the EPA, are all parts of the President's Cabinet and he should get his ass off the Golf course and on the job to do what we are paying him to do --- administrate!
And yes, I believe if this were a Republican administration -- Democrats would be calling for heads to roll!
The double standard stinks!
Administrations should be held at the same standard. We should expect as much out of Obama, trumpeted as America's First Black President, as we have every other President.
Obama should not get special treatment because he's black, imcompetent, or a Democrat -- especially when his administration is breaking the law with abandonment.
The idea that just because there is a Democrat in the White House that laws can willfully be broken by those who are in charge is one that should not be permitted to continue.
As for me, I don't want the VA Chief to resign -- I want him in prison!
And yes, that's the way I see it!