- Associated Press - Friday, May 23, 2014

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation said Friday they’ve received private assurances that Veterans Administration facilities in the state are not at issue in a nationwide investigation into lengthy delays in health care, but they still want proof.

The delegation sent a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, asking that the VA’s West Haven and Newington campuses, as well as its six clinics in Danbury, New London, Stamford, Waterbury, Willimantic and Winsted, be included in an ongoing audit and the results be made public.

“There’s no reason to doubt those assurances except for the prevalence of those problems all around the country,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, referring to assertions made by local VA officials that no wait time problems were found during a recent national level inspection.

“There is an apparent pattern of falsifying records to conceal or disguise a failure to comply with the 14-day waiting period,” the Democratic senator said. “And we need to be sure that it hasn’t happened here in Connecticut.”

Shinseki recently announced his agency would conduct “face-to-face” audits following reports of falsified wait lists and widespread treatment delays at VA medical facilities, as well as allegations that up to 40 veterans may have died while waiting for treatment in Phoenix, Arizona. President Barack Obama is expected to receive the preliminary results of those audits next week.

U.S. Rep. John Larson, who represents Connecticut’s 1st Congressional District, said even though the state’s veterans organizations strongly support the VA and say it’s doing a great job, he often hears of veterans who’ve experienced delays in treatment and other VA services.

“For a long time, we’ve been concerned about how do we expedite this process so that a process in need of care gets the timely care that they need,” the Democratic House member said.

A growing chorus of congressional candidates from both parties has called for the secretary to step down, but neither Larson nor Blumenthal demanded Shinseki’s resignation on Friday.

“What’s most important is that the wait times be eliminated, the quality of care to be second-to-none and anyone responsible for abuse be held accountable, criminal prosecution if necessary,” Blumenthal said. “But certainly people need to be shown the door. Heads need to roll.”

Blumenthal said Shinseki has “the president’s trust and confidence as a vet and the president is entitled as commander in chief to have his general in charge of the VA and bring a new team to bear.” He said, “It’s really about a team” needed to improve VA operations, “not about a single official.”

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