VA’s Shinseki ‘Mad As Hell’ Over Alleged Delays At Facility

May 15, 2014

Updated at 11:21 a.m.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki says he is “mad as hell” about allegations of delayed treatment and preventable deaths at a VA hospital in Phoenix.

“Any allegation about any adverse incident like this makes me mad as hell. I could use stronger language here, Mr. Chairman, but in deference to the committee, I won’t,” he told the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs on Thursday.

You can read his prepared remarks here.

NPR’s Scott Neuman has the background to this story:

“The accusations of extended delays in providing health care at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System surfaced last month. The facility reportedly kept two lists of veterans waiting for care: one it shared with Washington, and another, secret list of wait times that sometimes lasted more than a year.”

Dozens of deaths have been reported at the Phoenix facility because of delayed treatment. Three officials there have been placed on leave.

“Allegations like this get my attention,” Shinseki told NPR’s All Things Considered last week: “I take it seriously and my habit is to get to the bottom of it.”

But Aaron Glantz, a reporter for the Center for Investigative Reporting, told NPR’s Morning Edition on Thursday that these allegations aren’t new.

“The idea that the VA has been manipulating data on wait times was in an inspector general’s report in 2005, again in 2007, again in 2012,” he said.

Some Republicans in the Senate as well as the American Legion have called on Shinseki to resign over the controversy. But he and the White House have rejected those demands.

But The Associated Press reports that White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors has been dispatched to the Department of Veterans Affairs to oversee a review of the beleaguered agency. Here’s more from the AP about the VA system and the Phoenix facility:

“The VA system is the largest health care system in the country, serving nearly 9 million veterans a year at 152 hospitals and more than 1,500 other sites nationwide. Surveys show patients are mostly satisfied with their care. …

“The Phoenix VA Health Care System, which includes a hospital and at least a half-dozen satellite clinics, serves about 80,000 veterans.”

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