VA chief reaches out to vets on secret wait list

Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson on Wednesday said he had contacted some of the 1,700 veterans left off an official patient waiting list at an agency hospital in Phoenix.

At a breakfast with top veterans’ groups, Gibson said the department is speaking to the ignored veterans about their medical needs and scheduling appointments. He also announced plans to travel to the facility on Thursday.

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“Getting this right is our top priority, and taking care of the veterans in Phoenix is a good place to start,” Gibson said in a statement.

An initial report from the VA’s inspector general released last week found that managers at the Phoenix facility had kept veterans on a secret wait list and covered up long delays in treatment. Officials claimed the veterans waited 24 days for care when in fact they were kept from booking a primary care appointment an average of 115 days.

Anger over the initial findings led VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign last Friday. President Obama tapped Gibson, who served as Shinseki’s deputy for the last three months, to run the agency until a permanent replacement is found.

The IG report said the department should make contacting the veterans impacted by the fraud a top priority.

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