GOP chairman vows investigation into VA medical backlog

GOP chairman vows investigation into VA medical backlog
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The head of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee says his panel will look into a report that found roughly a third of veterans on a backlog to receive healthcare from the Veterans Affairs Department are already dead. 

“I’m aware that VA continues to keep numbers hidden. I’m very distressed at their lack of candor and, yes, we are investigating,” Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) told The Hill on Tuesday.

He said the department “may as well put an office up here on the Hill because I would expect that we will be doing more not less investigations about the VA.”

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An internal VA review of veteran death records provided to the Huffington Post found that, as of April, 847,822 veterans in the pending backlog for medical care and that of those, 238,647 were already deceased.

The report was handed over by Scott Davis, a program specialist at the VA's Health Eligibility Center in Atlanta, who has testified before Miller’s committee in the past and who he called a “very credible witness.”

A VA spokeswoman told Huffington Post that the department can’t subtract dead applicants from the list and that some may never have completed an application but remain on the backlog.

The news comes the same day that VA’s warned Congress that it needs to fill a $3 billion shortfall or risk shutting down VA hospitals in August.

“At time when they are asking for flexibility to spend an additional $3 billion on healthcare funds and they can’t even tell us who is on the wait list? I’m very disappointed in the mid-level management at VA,” Miller said.

He said he knows VA Secretary Robert McDonald is trying to change the culture at the agency “but his people are not serving him well.” 

“And that’s the very same thing that happened to secretary Shinseki,” Miller added.

Shinseki resigned as VA chief last year in the midst of a scandal over patient wait times and falsified data.