The Obama administration has "aggressively addressed" issues responsible for backlogs at the nation's Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics, and has reduced the number of days veterans have to wait for care, White House spokesman Jay Carney says.
"Since the beginning of fiscal year 2014, 759,724 claims have been completed, which is 162,831 more than the number of claims completed this time last year," Carney said Monday, reports The Hill. The increased numbers "show an enhanced focus and dedication to providing our veterans with the service and care that they deserve."
Carney, though, did not answer questions about whether the White House plans a "strike force" like the one after last fall's botched Obamacare website, and said he had no "personnel announcements" to make about the VA.
President Barack Obama is taking seriously the reports that hospitals around the country altered reporting statistics to make their treatment numbers look better, Carney said.
Long waiting times have resulted in the deaths of at least 40 veterans in the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System.
Many of the veterans died while they were listed on a secret waiting list whose purpose was to conceal how long patients actually had to wait before being seen by a physician, according to a CNN report.
Up to 1,600 veterans were forced to wait months for their medical appointments. Two appointment lists were maintained: an official computerized "sham" roster that shows veterans seeing doctors on a timely basis and a secret, genuine waiting list.
"The scheme was deliberately put in place to avoid the VA's own internal rules," said Dr. Sam Foote, who recently retired from the VA system.
Officials at VA hospitals in Wyoming, among other places, are also accused of creating secret lists, and, according to one document CNN obtained, employees were told to "game the system" to make their clinic reports look better.
The reports have led to calls for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki
to resign, and last week a congressional committee voted to subpoena him over the scandal.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee in a voice vote approved the subpoena ordering Shinseki and other top VA officials to produce all emails and written correspondence sent between April 9 and May 8 related to the disappearance or destruction of a secret patient waiting list at the Phoenix hospital.
But Carney said Monday that Obama is still "confident in Secretary Shinseki's ability to take appropriate action based on the IG's findings."
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