SHAHEEN URGES PRESIDENT OBAMA TO INVESTIGATE VA MISMANAGEMENT

Reports: At Least 40 Veterans Died Waiting for Appointments

April 25, 2014

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is calling on President Obama to launch a formal investigation “of gross misconduct by certain Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) management personnel” after it was reported that at least 40 veterans have died waiting for appointments at a VA facility in Phoenix.  According to CNN, the facility had placed many of these veterans on a “secret waiting list” as part of “an elaborate scheme designed by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix who were trying to hide that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor.” Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake have already called for the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to investigate this matter and Senator Shaheen supports that effort as well. 

“This type of willful disregard for the welfare of our nation’s veterans is unacceptable,” said Shaheen. “The individuals responsible must be identified and held accountable.  Moreover, we must also identify and address the gaps in the current oversight structure that allowed these transgressions to occur undetected in order to prevent this from happening anywhere else in our nation.  These fundamental breakdowns represent failures of the most serious kind, and demand an immediate and comprehensive response.”

“To that end, I respectfully request the White House initiate an investigation of this incident utilizing all relevant resources of the federal government,” Shaheen continued. “A timely and thorough investigation will not only help provide a full understanding of the issue, but will also help begin to rebuild trust between the Department, our nation’s veterans, and the American public.”

The full text of Senator Shaheen’s letter to President Obama is included below:

April 25, 2014

President Barack Obama

The White House                                                                               

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW                  

Washington, D.C. 20501

Dear Mr. President:

I write to convey my deep concern regarding the recent allegations of gross misconduct by certain Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) management personnel at the Phoenix, Arizona Veterans Affairs Health Care Center.   

Numerous media reports have suggested that senior management at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care center deliberately falsified data regarding patient wait times in order to appear to comply with VA standards.  As a result, approximately 1,500 veterans were secretly forced to wait months for appointments, and up to forty may have lost their lives awaiting care. 

This type of willful disregard for the welfare of our nation’s veterans is unacceptable.  The individuals responsible must be identified and held accountable.  Moreover, we must also identify and address the gaps in the current oversight structure that allowed these transgressions to occur undetected in order to prevent this from happening anywhere else in our nation.  These fundamental breakdowns represent failures of the most serious kind, and demand an immediate and comprehensive response. 

To that end, I respectfully request the White House initiate an investigation of this incident utilizing all relevant resources of the federal government.  Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake have also asked the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs to conduct hearings and an investigation on this matter, and I strongly support their request. A timely and thorough investigation, in both the executive and legislative branches of the government, will not only help provide a full understanding of the issue, but will also help begin to rebuild trust between the Department, our nation’s veterans, and the American public.   

Our veterans have earned access to the best possible care our nation can provide.  As Commander in Chief, I know that you and Secretary Shinseki are keenly aware of that responsibility, and I am confident that we share similar concern and frustration over these alarming allegations. 

On behalf of veterans in New Hampshire and around the country, I thank you for your attention to this matter.  

Sincerely,

 

­

Jeanne Shaheen

United States Senator

cc:        The Honorable Eric Shinseki

            Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs