Rep. Jeff Miller Calls for Independent Commission on VA Scandal

Tuesday, 13 May 2014 10:08 PM

By Cathy Burke

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House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller is asking President Obama to establish an independent commission to investigate shocking – and sometimes fatal – lapses in medical care for America's veterans.

The Republican lawmaker from Florida, in a letter to President Obama Tuesday, noted a commission precedent in 2007 in the wake of a similar scandal at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

"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, The Hill reported.

There's been intense scrutiny on VA clinics in several states, including Colorado, Wyoming, Texas and Arizona, where it's been alleged appointment waiting lists were doctored to hide long waits during which some sick vets died.

"In response, we’ve received disturbing silence from the White House and one excuse after another from VA," Miller wrote.

Miller said Obama now must make a "stark choice" to take immediate action to help "end the culture of complacency that is engulfing the Veterans Health Administration and compromising patient safety, or explain to the American people and American veterans why we should tolerate the status quo."

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, who is supposed to testify Thursday before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has met with a growing chorus of calls to resign from some lawmakers and the American Legion.

But Miller wants the results of VA investigations into the allegations first.

“Judging by the throngs of veterans, families and whistleblowers who keep courageously stepping forward, VA’s delays in care problem is growing in size and scope by the day. That’s why I am asking for President Obama’s personal involvement in helping fix this crisis," Miller said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Veterans Affairs is starting to action at some facilities.

The latest round of administrative leaves came Monday, when two Department of Veterans Affairs workers at a hospital in Durham, N.C., were sent home amid allegations linked to delay of health care, USA Today reports.

The VA issued a brief statement that said a tip from an employee at the Durham VA Medical Center "indicated that some employees at that facility may have engaged in inappropriate scheduling practices at some point between 2009 and 2012."

On May 1, Shinseki placed on leave the hospital administrator at the VA medical center in Phoenix where it's been alleged up to 40 vets died while waiting for treatment, along with two other officials there.

And last week, Shinseki placed a Veterans Affairs healthcare coordinator in Wyoming on administrative leave following revelations of an email sent last year outlining a scheme for masking delayed treatment of patients.

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