Begich Furious With VA Delays in Phoenix, Calls for Immediate Hearing, Investigation
Delays Leading to Death of Veterans "Disgraceful"
Outraged at recent reports that thousands of sick veterans had been hidden from Veterans Affairs (VA) records on “secret lists” in VA hospitals in Phoenix, Arizona - leading to the death of 40 veterans waiting for care - U.S. Senator Mark Begich is calling for a Senate hearing to investigate the shameful practices and implementation of a national policy to allow the VA to contract with local providers.
Begich is a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.
“Reports of these ‘secret lists’ are disgraceful and have led to the deaths of our former service men and women,” said Begich. “As a government, we should be ashamed of the poor administration of care for our sick veterans who sacrificed – putting their own lives on the line – for our country. I am calling for an immediate hearing to investigate these practices and make sure that no veteran ever has to endure a life-threatening wait like those in Arizona have. Our veteran community and their families deserve justice.”
CNN reported yesterday that VA workers were skirting reporting requirements and in effect hiding the names of some veterans in Phoenix waiting for care. Patients were being hidden from officials in Washington, making it appear that the waitlists were much shorter than they actually were. In some cases, veterans with dire health conditions were waiting up to six months for primary care appointments. The report noted that 40 veterans had died waiting for care.
In a letters sent to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Bernie Sanders, Begich pointed out the success of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) established between the VA and Alaska tribes to allow veterans to receive care closer to home at non-VA facilities as well as note the urgency of scheduling a hearing.
In the letter sent to Shinseki, Begich writes:
“… In Alaska, your staff has responded to my concerns about health care wait lists by contracting with local providers so that veterans do not have to delay care when the VA is faced with capacity challenges. I urge a similar policy nationwide…I urge you to act swiftly to implement additional MOUs with other health care systems so veterans can receive effective health care as soon as possible. The MOU implementation in Alaska serves as a great example of helping veterans and health care practitioners alike, and I believe it would improve the quality of life and care in urban areas that experience a high demand of VA health care. “
Begich also wrote to the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Bernie Sanders, urging him to immediately schedule a hearing on the issue:
“In Alaska, VA staff has responded to my concerns about wait lists by contracting with local providers so that vets do not have to delay care when VA has capacity challenges. Through agreements established between the VA and other health care systems, veterans can receive effective health care as soon as possible. Therefore, I urge a similar policy nationwide,” Begich wrote.
“No veteran’s health care should be placed on hold, especially after their service and sacrifice for our country. We must hold a hearing on this issue to find the root cause of these issues and ensure the VA acts swiftly to correct this debacle.”