Politics

VA Audit Details 'Systemic' Problems; Senators Call For DOJ Criminal Probe

| by Jared Keever

An internal audit from the Department of Veterans Affairs released Monday indicates that tens of thousands of returning veterans wait at least 90 days before receiving medical care. 

"This data shows the extent of the systemic problems we face, problems that demand immediate actions," acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson told CNN

Gibson replaced Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki after he resigned last week amid reports that as many as 23 veterans died nationwide while waiting for care at VA hospitals. 

The audit covered 731 VA facilities and included interviews with more than 3,700 staff. 

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Among the findings in the report is that the 14-day goal for providing care to veterans was “simply not attainable” due to a lack of capacity to deal with increased demand for services. The 14-day goal was imposed by Shinseki.

"Imposing this expectation on the field before ascertaining the resources required and its ensuing broad promulgation represent an organizational leadership failure," read the audit.

A fact sheet released with the audit indicated that pressure to hit the unattainable goal led staff to falsify wait-time records to make it appear as though facilities were functioning properly.

"In some cases, pressures were placed on schedulers to utilize unofficial lists or engage in inappropriate practices in order to make waiting times appear more favorable," the fact sheet said.

Executives within the VA received bonuses for achieving the 14-day goal and a group of senators have now called on the Department of Justice to investigate claims of records falsification.

"Evidence of secret waiting times, falsification of records, destruction of documents and other potential criminal wrongdoing has appalled and angered the nation, and imperiled trust and confidence in the Veterans Health Administration," read a letter signed by 21 senators and sent to Attorney General Eric Holder. 

Senators John McCain, R-Arizona, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, are among those who signed the letter that asks the DOJ to take a “leadership role” in the probe, according to Fox News.

The letter cites findings from a May 28 interim report filed by Veterans Affairs Inspector General Richard Griffin.

At a House Veterans Affairs Committee meeting Monday night, Griffin indicated he was in favor of a full investigation.

"Once someone loses their job or gets criminally charged, it will no longer be a game. And that will be the shot heard around the system,” he said.

Sources: CNN, Fox News