Inspector general reviewing KC veteran’s death

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Department of Veterans Affairs’ acting inspector general said his office will look into the death of a Missouri veteran who was killed by police after pointing a gun at them, shortly after being told there was a 30-day wait to check in at a VA hospital for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Richard J. Griffin sent a brief note on Wednesday to Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder saying he had initiated a review of the events surrounding the May 25 death of Issac Sims, of Kansas City. Sims, 26, was killed at his family’s home after pointing a rifle at police officers during a five-hour standoff. Officers were called to the home in response to a disturbance involving an emotionally disturbed person, and when they arrived heard shots being fired inside the residence.

Family members said Sims had been ordered to undergo treatment for PTSD at the VA Medical Center in Kansas City as part of his probation for an April 30 domestic assault conviction. But they said that less than a week before his confrontation with police, Sims was told it would be 30 days before there would be room for him at the facility.

The death of Sims - who served two combat tours in Iraq - came amid a national discussion about the amount of time veterans are being forced to wait to get into VA medical centers for treatment.

An updated audit of 731 medical centers released Thursday by VA officials indicated about 10 percent of veterans seeking medical care at VA hospitals and clinics have to wait at least 30 days for an appointment. That’s more than double the 4 percent of veterans the government said last week were forced to endure long waits.

In a May 30 letter, Yoder, of Overland Park, Kansas, wrote to Griffin asking him to investigate Sims’ death. Yoder said the events surrounding Sims’ death “leave many questions unanswered about what type of care is adequate for our veterans returning home, especially those with PTSD.”

“I’m grateful the VA Inspector General has initiated a review so we can get the facts surrounding this tragic case,” Yoder said in a statement.

It wasn’t clear how many days elapsed between Sims reaching out to the hospital and his death, or whether the hospital could have reasonably accommodated his request for treatment during that time.

The VA is investigating widespread manipulation of appointment data by schedulers following an uproar over allegations that dozens of veterans died while awaiting appointments at the Phoenix VA medical center.

Roughly 13 percent of schedulers surveyed by the auditors reported being told by supervisors to falsify appointment records to make patient waits appear shorter. The VA’s inspector general has cited a since-abandoned performance bonus system as a reason for the falsifications, which schedulers used to mask frequent, long delays in treatment for veterans.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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