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 SandersDemocrats: Where the hell are You? Sanders on Trump pick: This is how a rigged economy works Trump picks Goldman Sachs chief for top economic adviser: report 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 McCainUkrainians made their choice for freedom, but now need US help White House orders intelligence report of election cyberattacks Senate votes to elevate Cyber Command in military MORE (R-Ariz.), Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeSenators move to protect 'Dreamers' Reid bids farewell to the Senate Reid defends relationship with McConnell in farewell speech MORE (R-Ariz.) and John CornynJohn CornynSenators move to protect 'Dreamers' Democrats back down from shutdown threat Tax reform: Starting place for jobs, growth MORE (R-Texas) all demanded Congress investigate the claims.