- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

An official from the Veteran’s Affairs Department said Wednesday that an ongoing investigation has found no evidence of a secret waiting list at the VA hospital in Phoenix.

“To date, we found no evidence of a secret list and we have found no patients who have died because they’ve been on a wait list,” Dr. Robert Petzel, under secretary for health at the Veterans Health Administration, said at a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing. “If the allegations are true, they’re absolutely unacceptable.”

The Veterans Affairs Inspector General is investigating allegations that the Phoenix facility put patients on a secret waiting list that make it look like wait times for appointments were getting better. Veterans allegedly remained on this list for months and 40 died while waiting for care.

Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent and chairman of the committee, reiterated that he plans to hold a hearing on the issue once the inspector general completes its report.

“We will get to the bottom of what happened in Phoenix, but we will reach conclusions based on an objective investigation of the facts,” Mr. Sanders said. “In the meantime, we should not let these allegations impugn the excellent work done throughout this country by the VA.”

Mr. Sanders said he spoke Tuesday to the inspector general, who said he had the resources he needed to complete the investigation.

Sen. Richard Burr, North Carolina Republican and ranking member of the committee, said he supported Mr. Sanders in holding an oversight hearing on the quality of VA care and that he felt sure the committee could work with the VA to improve.

“This is not the first issue on the quality of care that faces the department and one veteran death related to delays in care is too many,” he said. “I’ve never seen the agency shy away from trying to solve those quality of care issues.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, said the committee should require at least a preliminary report from the IG as soon as possible. If it’s not received in a timely manner, Mr. Blumenthal said it’s still the committee’s responsibility to get the truth and that it should hold a hearing independent of the investigation.

“I hope the inspector general will complete his report as quickly as possible to restore the public trust in our system,” he said. “I believe that if the inspector general’s investigation lags that we should proceed independently.”

Dr. Petzel said he does know the timetable of when the investigation will be finished.