VetsFirst was on Capitol Hill last week when VA Secretary Eric Shinseki faced tough questions from the Senate VA Committee about mounting allegations of delayed health care for veterans. The next day, the Secretary accepted the resignation of Health Under Secretary Robert Petzel, who was already slated to retire later this year.
During the VA Committee hearing, Democratic and Republican Senators pressed Shinseki on how he plans to take accountability measures at VA to improve the situation. One Senator suggested that the Department of Justice begin a criminal probe into the situation at VA. Another asked if Shinseki had ever fired an employee for poor performance over veteran health care scheduling failures. Shinseki informed the Committee he would provide whatever resources investigators from VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) ask for and that he will allow their findings to guide his actions.
Acting VA Inspector General Richard Griffin testified that no secret waiting list had yet been identified. It could be August, however, before a full report is released.
Allegations that VA employees gamed the system to make it appear that veterans were being seen in a timely manner is a serious breach of trust between VA and our nation’s disabled veterans. For too many veterans, delayed access to care comes after delays in processing claims for VA disability compensation and pension benefits. VA must get to the root cause of the delays to ensure that veterans are receiving access to care when they need it. If VA can’t provide the care when needed, then VA needs to use its authority to help veterans get the care they need in the community.
VetsFirst will continue to monitor the VA’s OIG investigation and expect Secretary Shinseki to aggressively pursue new procedures for ensuring access to care. Many veterans rely on the VA health care system. They must not have any doubt that the system is safe and worthy of their sacrifices.