- Associated Press - Thursday, June 5, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Gov. Sam Brownback said Thursday that allowing Kansas and other states to inspect Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics would help the federal government with “credibility issues” it faces over unauthorized waiting lists for health care.

Brownback also told The Associated Press that giving veterans who have been waiting for care at VA facilities federal vouchers for health care elsewhere is the best way to deal with patient backlogs. He said he does not anticipate Kansas diverting state resources to provide additional health services.

The Republican governor made his comments a day after the VA medical center in Wichita acknowledged it had an unauthorized list of 385 veterans who were waiting for care, some of them for more than 90 days.

But in a letter Thursday to U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Wichita medical center Director Francisco Vazquez said none of veterans on the list was harmed by it and all are at least scheduled now to receive primary care services. Huelskamp, a Republican representing western and central Kansas, released the letter.

Huelskamp, who visited the Wichita hospital Wednesday, said the information from Vazquez was “incomplete.” U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Republican whose district includes Wichita, sent his own letter Thursday to Vazquez demanding a public apology to veterans and information about who allowed the unauthorized list, when it was created and whether the employees responsible had been disciplined.

Brownback’s comments Thursday represented his first public statements about problems at VA hospitals and clinics. But on Tuesday, he and the Republican governors of Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Pennsylvania and Texas sent a letter to Democratic President Barack Obama, asking that states be allowed to review VA facilities, recommend changes and partner with the VA to provide oversight.

“The VA has some credibility issues right now,” Brownback said in an interview Thursday. “It’d allow us to get a different set of eyes on it, and if we’ve got problems here, to bring those out so our veterans are getting help they need.”

In an email, Vazquez’s executive secretary, Diane Henderson, said Wichita medical center officials were not granting any interviews or commenting.

However, in his letter to Huelskamp, Vazquez said the “non-sanctioned” list in Wichita involved veterans who’d sought services under a program providing primary care to veterans in their homes. He said the list came to light May 21.

Vazquez said a review found that 126 were enrolled in the home-care program and 245 received primary care services outside the program.

He said the remaining 14 were receiving no primary care from any VA source but are now all scheduled to receive services.

Vazquez said that 20 of the 385 were identified as being at risk of “adverse impact” because of delayed entries into the home-care program but ultimately were not harmed.

“The fact that no patients were harmed as a result of this unauthorized list is the best possible outcome,” Vazquez wrote.

Brownback said he believes any problems in Kansas would be resolved more quickly if the state provided some oversight, with state Department of Health and Environment inspectors.

“And I think it would be more credible than the VA doing it itself,” the governor said.

The GOP governors’ letter also said the federal government should provide vouchers to veterans who can’t secure an appointment for care at a VA facility within 30 days. In Washington, senior U.S. senators reached agreement Thursday on a bill expanding veterans’ ability to get government-paid care outside VA hospitals and clinics.


Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .

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