Lawmaker Asks Obama To Form Panel On
Veteran Care Delays
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[May 14, 2014]
By David Lawder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Expressing
frustration with a growing controversy over medical care delays for
veterans, a prominent U.S. congressman asked President Barack Obama on
Tuesday to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the issue.
Representative Jeff Miller, who chairs the House Veterans Affairs
Committee, said the commission was needed because "VA's delays in
care problem is growing in size and scope by the day."
Probes into deaths of veterans who were waiting for medical
appointments at some VA clinics and hospitals and into allegations
of schemes to mask months-long waiting times for care were now
beyond the capabilities and resources of the VA's own inspector
general's office, the Florida Republican said.
"For nearly a year, we have been pleading with top Department of
Veterans Affairs leaders and the president to take immediate steps
to stop the growing pattern of preventable veteran deaths and hold
accountable any and all VA employees who have allowed patients to
slip through the cracks," Miller said in a statement.
"In response, we've received disturbing silence from the White House
and one excuse after another from VA," he added.
The agency's inspector general's office is investigating allegations
that 40 veterans died last year while waiting for appointments at
Phoenix-area VA hospitals and clinics. VA doctors in Phoenix say
that many veterans requesting appointments were held on a secret
waiting list, some as long as 21 months, until spots could open up
on an official list that met the VA's much shorter waiting time
Probes into similar schemes have been reported at VA facilities in
Cheyenne, Wyoming; Fort Collins, Colorado; and San Antonio and
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Miller said precedents exist for such special commissions, including
one established by former President George W. Bush in 2007 on care
for warriors wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan in response to reports
of substandard conditions and mismanagement at the former Walter
Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday reiterated Obama's
support for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.
"The president remains confident that Secretary Shinseki has the
ability to lead the department and to take appropriate action based
on the (inspector general's) findings," Carney said.
Shinseki is due to address the matter on Thursday in testimony
before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
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