Report: 1K vets may have died under VA watch

More than 1,000 veterans might have died during the last decade due to misconduct within the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a new report released Tuesday by Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnMr. President, let markets help save Medicare Pension insolvency crisis only grows as Congress sits on its hands Paul Ryan should realize that federal earmarks are the currency of cronyism MORE (R-Okla.).

The report linked more than 1,000 veteran deaths between 2001-2011 to the VA, noting the agency paid out $845 million in malpractice and wrongful death claims between 2003-2013.

Coburn's office compiled numerous news and government agency reports from the past year that show a pattern of budget mismanagement and criminal activity.

The findings reflect a "perverse culture" within the agency, Coburn said, which included bullying of whistleblowers and reluctance to let veterans waiting for care see other doctors. 

The report's biggest claim, that more than 1,000 veterans died under the VA's watch, is based on data obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting published in April. The claim that the VA paid $845 million in malpractice and wrongful death cases is drawn from a November 2013 story by Cox Media Group.

The VA saw increased scrutiny last month after an inspector general report revealed veterans waited 115 days on average for initial doctor's appointments at a Phoenix facility. Patient death records were also doctored to boost the VA's patient care statistics, a whistleblower told CNN on Tuesday.

Congress is working out the details of how to fund a bill that would allow veterans to get healthcare elsewhere if they have waited too long, are unable to be served or live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. A preliminary report by the Congressional Budget Office says that would cost up to $44 billion, a number some lawmakers dispute.

Coburn's office says the VA has the funds to reform its healthcare system, citing data where the agency spent $10.7 million nationwide on curtains and draperies, $562,000 on art and photo decorations and $184,000 on breakfast sandwiches at an Orlando conference.

The report puts the brunt of the blame on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), for ignoring warnings about problems at the VA.

"This is not the type of service veterans should receive," Coburn writes in the report, "and it certainly does not reflect the commitment made by our nation to the defenders of our freedoms."