WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) released the following statement after reviewing the Inspector General's interim report entitled Review of Patient Wait Times, Scheduling Practices and Alleged Patient Deaths at the Phoenix Health Care System:
For Immediate Release
Date: May 28, 2014
Contact: Gosar Press Office
Office: (202) 225-2315
Rep. Gosar Calls for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to Resign
Today, U.S. Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) released the following statement after reviewing the Inspector General's interim report entitled Review of Patient Wait Times, Scheduling Practices and Alleged Patient Deaths at the Phoenix Health Care System:
"In light of the release of today's report confirming hard evidence of neglect and malfeasance within the Department of Veterans Affairs, I call on VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to immediately resign. Today, the Inspector General confirmed serious and long standing abuse with regard to data manipulation and wait time schemes within the VA healthcare system in Phoenix and throughout the country.
"The fact that 1,700 veterans were kept on unofficial records lists in order to conceal lengthy wait times and manipulate data is disgraceful, despicable and dangerous. At least 40 veterans likely died waiting for treatment at the Phoenix VA and I will not stand for this abuse and lack of care for our nation's heroes. I kept my powder dry until I had hard evidence incriminating Secretary Shinseki and others within the VA. But now it's time for heads to roll. Those employees responsible for this negligence and corruption need to be held accountable and immediately terminated without retirement."
The Inspector General released an interim report on May 28, 2014, with some troubling findings. The Inspector General found that "a growing number of VA medical facilities have thus far provided insight into the current extent of these inappropriate scheduling issues throughout the VA health care system and have confirmed that inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic throughout VHA... Our review showed these 226 veterans waited on average 115 days for their first primary care appointment with approximately 84 percent waiting more than 14 days... At the same time, we identified an additional 1,700 veterans who were waiting for a primary care appointment but were not on the electronic waiting list (EWL) at the Phoenix Health Care System...Until that happens, the reported wait time for these veterans has not started. Most importantly, these veterans were and continue to be at risk of being forgotten or lost in Phoenix HCS's convoluted scheduling process. As a result, these veterans may never obtain a requested or required clinical appointment. A direct consequence of not appropriately placing veterans on EWLs is that the Phoenix HCS leadership significantly understated the time new patients waited for their primary care appointment in their FY 2013 performance appraisal accomplishments, which is one of the factors considered for awards and salary increases...Lastly, while conducting our work at the Phoenix HCS our on-site OIG staff and OIG Hotline received numerous allegations daily of mismanagement, inappropriate hiring decisions, sexual harassment, and bullying behavior by mid- and senior-level managers at this facility." To view the report click HERE.
Rep. Gosar has taken several measures to hold the VA accountable for this neglect. On April 30, 2014, Rep. Gosar successfully passed an amendment on the House floor to prohibit the Department of Veterans Affairs from creating or maintaining any unofficial patient record-keeping system. The amendment was attached to the House Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which then passed the full House by a vote of 416-1. The text of the amendment can be found HERE. Watch Rep. Gosar’s speech on the House floor about the need for this amendment by clicking HERE.
Rep. Gosar has for years stated that our veterans should be allowed private health care options and is a proud cosponsor of the Healthy Vets Act (H.R. 635). This legislation would allow veterans to access local care in a timely manner at facilities that are more accessible geographically.
Rep. Gosar is also a cosponsor of legislation passed by the House last week, the Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act (H.R. 4031), which would allow for the Secretary of the VA to fire senior executives who are inept. More information about this legislation can be found by clicking HERE.