Lawmakers want panel on VA delays

Lawmakers want panel on VA delays

VETERANS AFFAIRS:This 2010 photo provided by Amy Miner shows her Kryn Miner in Afghanistan, an Army veteran who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and who was shot to death in Essex, Vt., by one of their children in April after threatening to kill the family. Amy Miner believes the Veterans Affairs health system must do more to help veterans who struggle with PTSD after returning home. Photo: Associated Press

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Expressing frustration with a growing controversy over medical care delays for veterans, a prominent U.S. congressman asked President Barack Obama on Tuesday to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the issue.

Representative Jeff Miller, who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said the commission was needed because “VA’s delays in care problem is growing in size and scope by the day.”

Probes into deaths of veterans who were waiting for medical appointments at some VA clinics and hospitals and into allegations of schemes to mask months-long waiting times for care were now beyond the capabilities and resources of the VA’s own inspector general’s office, the Florida Republican said.

“For nearly a year, we have been pleading with top Department of Veterans Affairs leaders and the president to take immediate steps to stop the growing pattern of preventable veteran deaths and hold accountable any and all VA employees who have allowed patients to slip through the cracks,” Miller said in a statement.

“In response, we’ve received disturbing silence from the White House and one excuse after another from VA,” he added.

The agency’s inspector general’s office is investigating allegations that 40 veterans died last year while waiting for appointments at Phoenix-area VA hospitals and clinics. VA doctors in Phoenix say that many veterans requesting appointments were held on a secret waiting list, some as long as 21 months, until spots could open up on an official list that met the VA’s much shorter waiting time goals.

Probes into similar schemes have been reported at VA facilities in Cheyenne, Wyoming; Fort Collins, Colorado; and San Antonio and Austin, Texas.

Miller said precedents exist for such special commissions, including one established by former President George W. Bush in 2007 on care for warriors wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan in response to reports of substandard conditions and mismanagement at the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday reiterated Obama’s support for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

“The president remains confident that Secretary Shinseki has the ability to lead the department and to take appropriate action based on the (inspector general’s) findings,” Carney said.

Shinseki is due to address the matter on Thursday in testimony before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Recent Headlines

in Black Friday, Viral Videos

WATCH: Holiday parodies of the year’s biggest hits


From "Bad Blood" and "Watch Me," to "Uptown Funk," here are the year's hottest songs made fit for the holidays.

in Music

Judas Priest star wants to rock out with Lady Gaga


Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford is keen for an odd collaboration with the "Poker Face" hitmaker.

in Black Friday, Viral Videos

WATCH: What ‘Black Friday’ would look like as a scary movie


Black Friday would be a scary shopping experience if it got the Hollywood treatment.

in Music

Tony Iommi teases fans with new songs


The Black Sabbath rocker wants to release five unheard songs by the band just weeks after they scrapped plans for another album.

in Music

Metallica looking forward to baseball season


The San Francisco Giants will hold Metallica Night for the fourth year on May 6.