Veterans Affairs Secretary Denies Wrongful Death Allegations for Long Waits at Hospitals
The US Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki has come under fire recently for serious problems with secret waitlists and wrongful deaths of veterans waiting for delayed treatment at VA hospitals all over the country, but particularly in Phoenix, Arizona.
On Thursday, April 24th, news broke that the Veterans Administration Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona had a secret waiting list to hide delays in months-long delays in treatment and diagnoses, so that the hospital would appear as though it made strides in shortening wait times. Allegedly, the Phoenix VA had a waiting list, hidden in a file, of 1,400 to 1,600 veterans who were forced to wait months to see a doctor, and whose information was never put into the computer database to track their wait times.
Since the news broke, veterans, caretakers, and supporters all over the country have called for Shinseki to resign, because they believe his lack of oversight led to the severity of the problems, from delayed treatment to wrongful deaths, at the Phoenix VA.
On May 7th, Shinseki stated that he refused to resign, and that he served in the Veterans Affairs post because President Obama appointed him. In a statement to NPR, Shinseki said that he was determined to get to the bottom of the wrongful death allegations at VA hospitals.
“Allegations like this get my attention,” Shinseki tells All Things Considered. “I take it seriously and my habit is to get to the bottom of it.
On Thursday, May 8th, a House of Representatives committee voted to subpoena Shinseki for emails and documents alleging a “secret waiting list” of sick veterans at the Phoenix VA.
“Secretary Shinseki has directed the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to complete a nation-wide access review. The purpose of this review is to ensure a full understanding of VA’s policy and continued integrity in managing patient access to care,” the VA said in a statement. “VA takes any allegations about patient care or employee misconduct very seriously. VA invited the independent VA Office of Inspector General to conduct a thorough and timely review at the VA Phoenix Health Care System, and the department is fully cooperating with that investigation.”
“It is unfortunate that we have to come to this decision, but we did not do so without substantial justification,” committee chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said before the vote. “The last few weeks have been a model of VA stonewalling, which precipitated the need for a subpoena.”
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