Senators rip VA chief Shinseki over veteran deaths

By Neal McNamara | May 15, 2014

Lawmakers hammered Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki at a hearing Thursday for doing nothing while veterans died as a result of delayed health care at VA hospitals and clinics across the country.

The most atrocious lapse occurred at the Phoenix VA hospital, where administrators reportedly kept a secret list of patients in an attempt to conceal wait times. An estimated 40 veterans died while waiting simply to get an appointment at the hospital.

Additionally, VA hospitals in South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Washington, and Georgia had delays due to mismanagement, and staff at a Fort Collins, Colo., clinic was instructed to falsify records to hide delayed care.

A 2013 report showed that thousands of patients at the Columbia, S.C., hospital had their colon cancer screenings delayed, some of whom developed the cancer and later died.

“Why were the national audits and statements of concern from the VA only made this month?” asked North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr during the hearing in front of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

“We should all be ashamed,” said Arizona Sen. John McCain, who is a veteran.

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran has called for Shinseki’s resignation, though it’s not clear if the Obama administration is prepared to take that step.

In response to questions from the lawmakers, Shinseki said, “Any allegation, any adverse incident like this makes me mad as hell.” Shinseki was a former four-star general, and Obama appointed him to lead the VA in 2009.

VA Inspector General Richard J. Griffin said that his office will review the entire VA system for similar incidents, and commented that the VA could’ve prevented the deaths if it “would focus on its core mission to deliver quality health care.”

Obama has assigned his deputy chief of staff, Rob Nabors, to watch over the investigation of the VA.

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