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Obama: Deaths of Vets in Phoenix Apparently Not Linked to Wait Times

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President Obama says the inspector general looking into allegations that 40 veterans died waiting for care at the Phoenix VA hospital does not see a link between the wait times and the veterans' deaths.

Obama made a statement this morning about the state of various investigations into wait times at VA facilities, which have since expanded beyond Phoenix.

See also:
-Phoenix VA Director, Two Others Placed on Leave
-Obama on Phoenix VA Claims: "We Take the Allegations Very Seriously"

There have been allegations at the Phoenix VA, and elsewhere, that wait times have been manipulated by VA staff to seem shorter than they are. Last month, the Arizona Republic published allegations from a retired VA doctor in Phoenix who claimed 40 veterans died because of these delays.

The inspector general's investigation is still ongoing, and Obama only mentioned in passing this morning that the IG didn't see a link between the wait times and the deaths.

Meanwhile, the VA is doing its own investigation into whether the apparent manipulation of wait times is happening in a few, isolated incidents, or if it's a widespread practice.

"Anybody found to have manipulated or falsified records will be held accountable," Obama said.

However, he insisted that his administration would wait until all the facts are gathered and investigations are completed before this happens.

"Once we know the facts, I assure you, if there is misconduct, they will be punished," he said.

In the meantime, Obama has sent his Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors to Phoenix to find out how to deal with the issues of long wait times at VA facilities. Nabors' job is to report back on how the VA can "up their game," Obama said.

Senator John McCain immediately responded to Obama's address, saying it was insufficient:

"While I am glad that after many weeks of refusing to acknowledge this widening scandal, President Obama finally saw fit to speak about it today, but his remarks are wholly insufficient in addressing the fundamental, systemic problems plaguing our veterans' health care system. According to the latest reports, 26 VA facilities nationwide are now being investigated, and this Administration's ineffectual response has created a crisis of confidence in our veterans' community. We need answers, leadership and accountability, none of which we've seen from the Obama Administration to date. Further, Congress must act to address the systemic problems at the VA by giving its leaders greater ability to hire and fire those charged with providing care, and by giving veterans far greater flexibility in how they get quality care in a timely manner."

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Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.

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