Senators - including Blumenthal - call for Justice probe of VA

Twenty-one U.S. Senators signed and sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder calling for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate immediately “evidence of criminal wrongdoing” at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities. 

“Evidence of secret waiting times, falsification of records, destruction of documents, and other potential criminal wrongdoing has appalled and angered the nation, and imperiled trust and confidence in the Veterans Health Administration,” the senators wrote. “While we commend and appreciate the (inspector general’s) pursuit of his inquiry, an effective and prompt criminal investigation must inevitably involve the resources of the Department of Justice, including the FBI." 

The VA inspector general is conducting a criminal investigation and is working with the DOJ, but senators Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and John McCain, R-Ariz., called on the DOJ to take a leadership role in the investigation. They also said that a report from the inspector general expected to be completed in August was not soon enough. 

“The spreading and growing scale of apparent criminal wrongdoing is fast outpacing the criminal investigative resources of the (inspector general), and the revelations in the interim report only highlight the urgency of involvement by the Department of Justice,” the senators said. “There is a need for prompt results from the (inspector general) – not by August, as the (inspector general) has publicly said, but within the next few weeks.” 

The Veterans Health Administration has conducted its own audit and has released a summary of the results. It found staff members were instructed to manipulate veteran’s desired appointment times and that staff members were created “secret” wait lists, which delayed veterans from seeing a health care professional. On Thursday, acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson said 18 veterans died while waiting for care from the Phoenix VA Health Care System, which has become the center of the wait-time scandal. 

j.somers@theday.com

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