Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki on Thursday pledged to "set things straight" at his beleaguered agency in the effort to "restore integrity to our processes to earn veterans' trust."
"I remain committed to providing the high-quality care and benefits that veterans have earned and deserve," Shinseki said in an op-ed piece
in USA Today. "And we will."
Shinseki, who has headed the agency since 2009, called the findings by the VA's inspector's investigation of secret waiting lists in centers in Phoenix and at other facilities "reprehensible to me and to this department.
"We are not waiting to set things straight," he added.
The inspector's report
found that as many as 1,700 veterans needing care were "at risk of being lost or forgotten" after being kept off the wait lists in Phoenix.
Shinseki said that he had ordered VA officials to contact the veterans directly "in order to bring them the care they need and deserve."
VA officials told the House Veterans' Affairs Committee at a hearing
late Wednesday that those vets were expected to be contacted by Friday.
In other moves, Shinseki said that he directed "an independent site team" to investigate the issues in Phoenix last month and have since put three officials there on administrative leave, though the inspector general has asked that no other personnel moves occur "until its independent, objective review is complete."
"We are already taking action consistent with the recommendations of the interim inspector general's report," Shinseki wrote. "We will fully implement his remaining recommendations."
He added that more than 200 VA officials were working on a nationwide audit of agency centers. "We expect to announce the initial results of that audit in the coming days."
"We are doing all we can to accelerate access to care throughout our system and in communities where veterans reside," the retired, four-star Army general said. "I've challenged our leadership to ensure we are doing everything possible to schedule veterans for their appointments."
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