The Department of Veterans Affairs says it has expanded its investigation of a VA hospital in Phoenix where reports say as many as 40 veterans died after waiting too long for appointments.
A team of clinical experts was dispatched to Phoenix last week to “review appointment-scheduling procedures at that facility and the existence of any delays in care,” a VA spokesman said in a statement Thursday, according to The Wall Street Journal.
In January, the VA inspector general’s office launched a probe into several complaints it received over operations at the Phoenix VA Health Care System in Arizona.
A recently retired top VA doctor claims the hospital created a secret waiting list for between 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans. He calls the official waiting list to see a doctor a sham.
At an April 9 House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin said his office expanded the inquiry, Office of the Inspector General spokeswoman Catherine Gromek told the WSJ.
Internal emails the VA inspector general provided to the committee show a VA employee complained to a superior that veterans were being forced to wait about six weeks on a secret waiting list before receiving an actual appointment.
"Sure, when their appointment is created, it's [sic] can be 14 days out, but we're making them wait 6-20 weeks to create that appointment," said the employee email, dated July 3, 2013, the WSJ reports. "That is unethical and a disservice to our Veterans."
On Thursday, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders set for clash with Trump’s budget pick Democrats vie for chance to take on Trump as California governor Overnight Finance: Trump takes US out of Pacific trade deal | WH says Trump has left his businesses | Lobbyists expect boom times MORE (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, announced he would hold a hearing to examine the allegations once the inspector general’s report is complete.
Earlier in the day, a number of senators and House lawmakers expressed outrage over the reports.
Sens. John McCainJohn McCainSenate panel votes to confirm Tillerson Overnight Defense: Trump nominates Air Force secretary | Senate clears CIA director | Details on first drone strike under Trump McCain: Trump's withdrawal from TPP a 'serious mistake' MORE (R-Ariz.), Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeThis week: Congressional Republicans prepare to huddle with Trump GOP eyes new push to break up California court Live coverage of Trump's inauguration MORE (R-Ariz.) and John CornynJohn CornynTrump continues to insist voter fraud robbed him of popular vote Trump hosts Hill leaders for ice breaker Trump's CIA chief clears Senate MORE (R-Texas) all demanded Congress investigate the claims.