Three Arizona Congressman Call for Removal of Phoenix VA Leadership
Phoenix VA director Sharon Helman (left) with a VA employee.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Three Republican congressmen from the Phoenix area are calling for the resignation or removal of everyone in a leadership position in the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System (PVAHCS).
Congressmen David Schweikert, Matt Salmon, and Trent Franks signed a letter to the Phoenix VA director asking for leadership's resignation and another letter to U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki requesting their removal. The letters come after allegations that 40 veterans died while waiting for medical appointments at the Phoenix VA system.
There hasn't been an official finding that delays in care led to deaths at the Phoenix VA, but the Arizona Republic and CNN have published whistle-blower complaints from a retired Phoenix VA doctor. The Republic's story also mentions at least one other whistle-blower corroborates the claims of manipulated wait times, as well as an internal e-mail from an employee complaining about the "unethical" wait-times system.
The VA's inspector general is investigating the claims, but the three Arizona congressman calling for resignations and firings are doing so before the investigation is complete.
"The mistakes made by PVAHCS cannot be undone, but drastic changes need to be made to ensure that this never happens again," the letter states. "In order to begin to restore faith in the veteran's health car system, department executives who were aware of and presided over this unethical and alarming mismanagement must be held accountable. It is for this reason we demand that you and the leadership team at PVAHCS resign from all leadership positions."
Meanwhile, President Obama and the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs have vowed to take action pending the release of the inspector general's report.
Phoenix VA director Sharon Helman recently told the Republic she was shocked to hear of allegations that VA officials manipulated wait times, while 40 veterans died because of the alleged delay.
She mentioned that it's VA policy to explain to family members of loved ones who died because of lack of care by the VA. Officials told the Republic that they didn't have a single documented case of a patient dying due to delayed care.
Delays at a VA hospital aren't new, and neither are deaths resulting from those delays. Just earlier this month, the U.S. House Committee on Veterans' Affairs held a hearing titled, "A continued assessment of delays in VA medical care and preventable veteran deaths."
An assistant inspector general described big delays in colon-cancer screenings at the VA hospital in Columbia, South Carolina. The Inspector General's Office found 52 veterans received a delayed diagnosis of colon cancer, some of whom died.
The inspector general is still investigating the claims of 40 veterans dying due to delayed care in Phoenix, but the three Arizona congressmen who signed on to the letters have called for leadership's departure now.
The letters can be seen in their entirety on the next page.
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