The Secretary of Veterans Affairs resigned in the wake of an interim report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) that determined that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) falsified records to cover up the amount of time veterans had to wait for medical appointments at the Phoenix, Arizona VA hospital, and that the problem is nationwide. The report found that 1,700 veterans were kept on a secret waiting list before being put on the official waiting list to make it appear that these patients waited 24 days or less. In fact, these patients had waited on average 115 days for an initial appointment. The false wait times were used to give employees pay increases and bonuses. The report did not determine if delays led to the deaths of any veterans. The IG is appraising VA facilities across the country. The report has identified criminal violations and is coordinating its investigation with the Department of Justice (DoJ). Improper scheduling practices are not new to the VA. Since 2005, the OIG has issued 18 reports finding “scheduling problems” at many VA facilities. The White House issued a statement indicating that the President “found the findings (of the IG report) extremely troubling.”
The House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) held a hearing within hours of the release of the IG report. HVAC Chairman Miller said “Right now, there are two things that need to happen. Attorney General Eric Holder should launch a criminal investigation into VA’s widespread scheduling corruption and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki should resign immediately. Shinseki is a good man who has served his country honorably, but he has failed to get VA’s health care system in order despite repeated and frequent warnings from Congress, the Government Accountability Office and the IG.”
Rep. Mike Michaud (ME), Ranking Member on the Committee also called for Shinski’s resignation after the hearing. The officials who appeared before the Committee were Joan Mooney, Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs; Dr. Thomas Lynch, Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Clinical Operations and Management; and Michael Huff, Congressional Relations Officer.
FRA believes that delayed and inadequate care for our veterans is a violation of a solemn vow by our nation to properly care for our veterans. The House has recently passed the “Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act” (H.R. 4031), that authorizes the VA Secretary to remove any agency senior executive if the individual’s performance warrants removal. This FRA-supported bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration. Members are urged to use the Action Center (action.fra.org/action-center) to ask their senators to support this legislation.