VA Apologizes, Says 'Confusion' Caused Misstated Number of Deaths

Thursday, 07 Aug 2014 09:07 PM

By Greg Richter

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The Department of Veterans Affairs issued an apology Thursday for misstatements about the number of veterans who died waiting for medical care, CNN reports.

As the VA wait-time scandal was growing earlier this year, the agency released a statement saying that 23 veterans were known to have died while waiting to see a doctor. The VA said that figure came from having looked at 250 million records from a 15-year period.

In truth, the VA looked at only 11,000 cases between the years 2010 and 2012, CNN reported. More deaths could have occurred over the 15 years the VA claimed it had looked at.

The VA issued a statement to CNN Thursday, saying that two separate reviews were "intertwined in written and oral statements leading to confusion. ... VA inadvertently caused confusion in its communication on this complex set of reviews that were ongoing at the time. For that, we apologize."

The admission came after House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller earlier this week accused the VA of "what appears to be an attempt to mislead Congress and the public."

Miller, a Florida Republican, wrote in a letter to the agency that the erroneous information was included in a fact sheet given to his committee in April and was repeated multiple times in congressional testimony and to the members of the media.

Former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki repeated the incorrect information in a Capitol Hill news briefing two weeks before he resigned.

Miller wasn't convinced it was a mistake, telling CNN, "VA officials let this false impression fester for four months until they were confronted about the scheme by Congress and the media. The department is now attempting to chalk all this up to a misunderstanding, but that explanation doesn't pass the smell test."

Also Thursday, President Barack Obama signed a $16 billion bill into law aimed at addressing the problems in the VA medical system.

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