WASHINGTON—In the wake of allegations that as many as 40 veterans may have died while waiting for treatment at the Phoenix VA, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs voted this week to subpoena VA records and emails in which VA leaders may have discussed the “destruction of an alternate waitlist.”
The committee’s vote follows calls for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to step down from some members of Congress as well as the American Legion.
“The existing leadership has exhibited a pattern of bureaucratic incompetence and failed leadership that has been amplified in recent weeks,” American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said this week.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said he agreed with the American Legion.
“The president needs to find a new leader to lead this organization out of the wilderness,” he said.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) said that he was not ready “to join the chorus of people calling on him to step down.”
“I don’t believe that just changing someone at the top is going to actually get to the solutions that many of us are looking for,” he said.
On his part, Shinseki told CBS news this week that he wanted veterans to know that “healthcare is something they earned and deserve.”
“We’re going to deliver it, it is high-quality and I want them to believe that when they walk into our facilities, they’re safe,” he said.
Following the allegations at the Phoenix facility, Shinseki directed that three employee of the Phoenix VA Health Care System be placed on administrative leave until further notice in light of the investigation of the VA Office of Inspector General. The VA also ordered a nationwide review of access to care at VA clinics.
Rep. John Barrow (D-GA) said in a written statement that the nationwide review is “welcome” but “long overdue.”
“All across the country, we’re seeing veterans face long waits to the point that some have died and many others have gotten much sicker,” he said.
Among those who are exposed to combat, it’s the weapons fire that does it. In the Navy, it’s the noise levels in engine rooms and on the decks of carriers.
As the debate about increasing access for veterans to community-based provider heats up, a serious problem has emerged: Few providers outside the VA health system appear to be prepared to meet the unique challenges of the veteran population.