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by
Bridget Johnson

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April 25, 2014 - 5:03 am

The chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said he wants to wait for the results of an inspector general’s report before investigating deaths at a Phoenix VA center, despite calls from fellow senators to hold hearings right away.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) replied to a request from Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to promptly investigate the reports that a secret waiting list held some 1,600 veterans stalled in the system, resulting in at least 40 deaths.

“This article was published after Chairman Miller of the House Veterans Affairs Committee testified during a hearing that he had evidence suggesting that PVAHCS officials manipulated schedules in order to make it appear that patients received appointments faster than they actually did. This raises concern that officials have been misusing the Electronic Waiting List system employed by all VA Health Centers and keeping a non-official list outside of standard VA procedures,” McCain and Flake wrote to Sanders.

They added that “regardless of whether these deaths were caused by mismanagement by PVAHCS officials or intentional manipulation, the allegations appear indicative of broader trends that we have observed regarding the VA’s apparent failure to provide quality healthcare to our veterans.”

Sanders replied to his colleagues in a letter Thursday, stressing that he takes the allegations “very seriously.”

“I am troubled when I hear that any veteran may have received substandard service from VA. We, as a nation, have a commitment to provide timely, quality health care to veterans, and I am determined to assist VA in meeting this responsibility,” the chairman wrote.

Sanders said the VA’s Inspector General “has a multidisciplinary team already on the ground in Phoenix.”

“I have urged them to move their investigation forward as quickly as possible. I am sure that you will agree with me that an objective inquiry into these allegations is necessary before holding a hearing on this issue.  In other words, we have got to know what the facts are,” he wrote.

“Once the IG collects additional information, we can engage in a more informed deliberation on the allegations in Phoenix. You have requested a hearing on this issue and I will commit to holding a hearing once the IG’s inquiry is complete,” Sanders added. “I look forward to working with you to ensure that VA health care is among the best in the nation – our veterans need and deserve that assurance.”

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), a member of the committee, said the hearing should be called immediately.

“As a government, we should be ashamed of the poor administration of care for our sick veterans who sacrificed – putting their own lives on the line – for our country. I am calling for an immediate hearing to investigate these practices and make sure that no veteran ever has to endure a life-threatening wait like those in Arizona have. Our veteran community and their families deserve justice,” Begich said.

He wrote to Sanders that a national policy could be adopted like that in Alaska, where wait lists are contracted out to local providers and out of the VA’s hands.

“Through agreements established between the VA and other health care systems, veterans can receive effective health care as soon as possible.  Therefore, I urge a similar policy nationwide,” Begich wrote.

“No veteran’s health care should be placed on hold, especially after their service and sacrifice for our country.  We must hold a hearing on this issue to find the root cause of these issues and ensure the VA acts swiftly to correct this debacle.”

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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All Comments   (7)
All Comments   (7)
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How many will die before the IG report is completed and yet more hot air is blathered in a hearing?
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wait for medical care, wait for the report- at this point what difference does it make?
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Murder by neglect and it's not to be investigated immediately?
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have had appeals in for increases in my service-connection disabled rating - and have for 14 years.

Delays? "Secret Lists?" Everything in their power to not do their job? Oh, hell yes.

If you want an eye-opener, ask a random selection of Veterans if their "records went missing at Saint Louis." I will near-guarantee it will be easily 50% of them (myself included).
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
So Congress has been neglecting its oversight responsibility for decades? Don't worry there's a report coming.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bingo!

The House and Senate Veterans Committees are as much of a disgrace as the V.A. Head Office bureaucratic shuffle. The local V.A. hospital practicing medical staff personnel with too many patients to treat are at the mercy of the overhanging managerial bureaucracy and budget allocations.

Don't blame the V.A. doctors and nurses themselves. They're trying to cope.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
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