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Eric Shinseki calls Phoenix VA report results 'reprehensible,' vows to take action

By Daniel S Levine,

Embattled Veterans Affairs secretary Eric Shinseki called the results of Wednesday’s report on the Phoenix VA “reprehensible” and tried to assure America that the department is “not waiting to set things straight.”

The internal report confirmed what the media has been reporting for weeks, that waitlists were fudged to show veterans receiving care in a timely manner when they were not in reality.

The report, which VA acting inspector general Richard J. Griffin said was not complete, showed that some 1,700 veterans were not on an official waitlist to receive doctors’ care. In an op-ed for USA Today on Thursday, Shinseki outlined his immediate response to the report and how he plans to fix the Phoenix VA hospital.

“I immediately directed the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to contact each of the 1,700 veterans in Phoenix waiting for primary care appointments in order to bring them the care they need and deserve,” Shinseki wrote. He also said that an independent team began investigating conditions there in April and they are already following the recommendations from the inspector general.

However, no further actions will be taken in Phoenix until the inspector general’s report is complete. The only other move Shinseki has made there came on May 1 when he placed the administrative staff on leave.

“We are doing all we can to accelerate access to care throughout our system and in communities where veterans reside,” Shinseki wrote. “I've challenged our leadership to ensure we are doing everything possible to schedule veterans for their appointments. We, at the Department of Veterans Affairs, are redoubling our efforts, with commitment and compassion, to restore integrity to our processes to earn veterans' trust.”

While Shinseki has focused on Phoenix, there have been widespread calls for his resignation and even President Obama’s faith in him might be wavering. CNN reports that the White House has him on “probation,” according to a source for that site. He’s on “thin ice” based on the outcome of the investigations.

USA Today reports that Griffin did find that delayed healthcare is a widespread issue in the VA system, not just in Phoenix.

 

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