Shinseki: IG findings ‘reprehensible’

Embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki on Wednesday said the problems at a Phoenix clinic uncovered by an inspector general report “are reprehensible.”

"I have reviewed the interim report, and the findings are reprehensible to me, to this Department, and to Veterans," Shinseki said in a statement.

The investigation of the Veterans Affairs (VA) clinic was ordered after CNN reported last month that 40 veterans died after being placed on "secret wait list" by the Phoenix clinic.

The interim report, released Wednesday, showed that there were 1,700 patients at the Phoenix facility who were not on an official wait list, and that a sample of 226 veterans waited an average of 115 days for a primary care appointment.

Shinseki said he directed the Phoenix VA Health Care System to "immediately triage each of the 1,700 veterans identified" by the inspector general to bring them "timely care."

The explosive findings of the report put even more pressure on Shinseki, who was already fighting calls for his resignation from about 30 lawmakers. Sen. Mark Udall (Colo.), who is running for reelection this year, on Wednesday became the first Senate Democrat to call for him to step down.

Two other prominent Republican voices — House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Jeff Miller (Fla.) and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) — also called for Shinseki’s resignation on Wednesday

Shinseki vowed the VA was already "taking action on multiple recommendations” from the IG’s report.

“We will aggressively and fully implement the remaining OIG recommendations to ensure that we contact every single Veteran identified by the OIG," he said.

Shinseki reiterated that he has placed Phoenix clinic leadership on administrative leave and has ordered a visit to the clinic to assess scheduling and other practices.

He also reiterated that he has directed a nation-wide review of clinics to "ensure a full understanding" of the VA's policy and "continued integrity in managing patient access to care."

Shinseki urged patience until the inspector general issues its complete review, which will include whether those who faced delayed appointments died as a result.

“It is important to allow OIG’s independent and objective review to proceed until completion. OIG has requested that VA take no additional personnel actions in Phoenix until their review is complete," he said.