Rubio asks VA for Florida patient wait list data

 

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has asked the Department of Veterans Affairs to turn over electronic wait list data for patients at Florida facilities.

The move follows allegations that several VA clinics used secret electronic waiting lists to hide long delays for veterans to receive treatment, resulting in patient deaths.

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“I am writing to request you obtain, and provide me with electronic wait list data for all VA medical centers in Florida,” wrote Rubio in a letter to the agency dated March 12. He also asked for information on VA facilities in neighboring states that treated Floridians.

“In addition to that data I am also seeking your assurances that the VAMCs [Veterans Affairs Medical Centers] treating Floridians are not keeping their own separate, secret wait lists that have not been disclosed,” he added.

Rubio raised specific concerns about a medical center in Orlando. He said the facility in February had "acknowledged a wait list of approximately 2,400 patients who were waiting to be seen for specialty care appointments."

The senator said VA officials blamed the wait list on “the need for additional space to treat veterans and the lack of available VA physicians to provide care." 

Rubio asked for an update of the wait list, noting the “thousands of Central Florida veterans impacted by the situation.”

His move comes as Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is due to testify before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee this Thursday, where he will face tough questioning by lawmakers over the wait lists.

Shinseki has also been subpoenaed by the House Veterans' Affairs Committee and two top veterans groups have called for his resignation.

The White House, though, has stood by Shinseki and expressed confidence in a VA investigation into the matter.

Rubio’s letter did not call for Shinseki to step down, but the Florida senator urged the agency to review their policies.

"I realize that VA physicians cannot treat all veterans at the same time and that they do prioritize patient care based on medical necessity, but it is apparent to me the agency needs to work on its timeliness and reexamine its methodology of providing medical care to veterans," Rubio wrote.