Acting VA chief: 18 vets died on Phoenix wait list

Acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson on Thursday admitted that 18 veterans died while waiting to receive care at an agency hospital in Arizona.

Gibson said the department confirmed the deaths after a VA inspector general report found that 1,700 veterans had been left off an official patient waiting list, The Arizona Republic reported.

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Gibson said he had complete details on 14 of the deaths and most had contacted the VA for “end of life care,” according to the newspaper. 

“None of that excuses us. These lists were not being worked — inexcusable,” he said.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki stepped down last Friday after a department report found massive fraud at the Phoenix facility and a White House-mandated audit of nationwide VA sites uncovered systemic tampering with patient data.

President Obama appointed Gibson, Shinseki’s deputy for the last three months, to run the agency until a permanent replacement is found.

Gibson said the agency would have the full results of the nationwide audit next week. He said the department would work to release “complete” patient wait-time data for each VA facility across the country.

“We have to work to earn back the trust of each veteran and we’ll do that one veteran at a time,” he said.