Phoenix VA Deaths After Long Waits for Care Being Investigated

Friday, 25 Apr 2014 07:09 AM

By Michael Mullins

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A Phoenix VA is at the center of an investigation involving the deaths of at least 40 veterans, who allegedly died due to excessive wait times.

Upwards of 1,600 veterans were forced to wait months for their medical appointments, according to CNN, which reported that the hospital staff maintained two appointment lists – an official computerized "sham" roster, which inaccurately showed veterans seeing doctors on a timely basis, and a secret, genuine waiting list.

According to the cable news network, the purpose of the secret waiting list was to conceal how long patients actually had to wait before being seen by a physician.

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On Thursday, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said it would convene a hearing on the allegations after a team of investigators dispatched by the VA's inspector general in Washington returned with a report.

"I am troubled when I hear any veteran may have received substandard care from the VA," independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the committee chairman, said on Thursday. "I take these allegations very seriously."

The sentiment was shared by Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain, who on Wednesday said at a news conference, "I cannot express how troubling these allegations are to me as a veteran."

A former prisoner of war, McCain was tortured for five and a half years while being held captive in North Vietnam after his plane was shot down during a bombing mission. In a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki sent Wednesday, McCain wrote that any and all workers involved in the alleged scandal must be "held accountable," The Los Angeles Times reported.

Dr. Sam Foote, who just retired after spending 24 years with the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, told CNN that "The scheme was deliberately put in place to avoid the VA's own internal rules."

"That hard copy, if you will, that has the patient demographic information is then taken and placed onto a secret electronic waiting list, and then the data that is on that paper is shredded," Foote told the network. "So the only record that you have ever been there requesting care was on that secret list."

According to Foote, there are about 1,400 to 1,600 veterans presently waiting on the "secret list" to see a primary care physician.

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