Rep. Patrick McHenry (R, NC-10) is calling for the resignation of Department of Veterans Affairs secretary Eric Shinseki, following discoveries of mismanagement and mistreatment at Veteran Affairs facilities in Phoenix, A.Z. and across the country.
According to the Associated Press, a federal investigation of operations at Phoenix VA Health Care System found that approximately 1,700 veterans in need of care were “at risk of being lost or forgotten” after being kept off an official waiting list. Although the investigation was initially focused on Phoenix, the VA Department’s inspector general stated that broad and deep-seated problems have been unearthed in the health care system, which provides medical care to an average of 6.5 million veterans annually.
“The treatment of veterans by the Phoenix VA is nothing short of disgusting,” McHenry said in his press release Thursday. “These brave Americans have given so much for our country, and for them to be subjected to this horrendous treatment is repugnant.”
An interim report confirmed earlier allegations of excessive waiting times for care in Phoenix, with an average 115-day wait for a first appointment for those on the waiting list, nearly five times as long as the 24-day average the hospital had reported.
The Associated Press reported that according to VA guidelines, veterans are expected to be seen within 14 days of their desired date for a primary care appointment. At the VA, the inspector general said the schedulers ignored the date that a provider or veteran wanted for an appointment, instead opting to select the next available appointment, using that as a baseline to portray a false zero-day wait time.
“After I reviewed yesterday’s interim report, it is clear that Secretary Shinseki has failed his most basic responsibility of caring for America’s heroes,” McHenry said. “The report found these issues not to be isolated incidents, but rather systemic problems throughout the VA system, a system Secretary Shinseki has led since the President took the oath of office in 2009. In light of these most recent revelations, I believe it is time Secretary Shinseki resign and allow for new leadership that will protect our nation’s veterans.”
In his statement, McHenry added that while the treatment at the Phoenix VA facilities is upsetting, he commends the exemplary service provided by the staff at both the Hickory outpatient clinic and the Asheville VA Medical Center.
Shinseki is expected to release results as soon as this afternoon of a system-wide audit of scheduling policy and practices.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.