Deepening VA scandal spurs calls for resignation, reform

As the fallout from the Veterans Affairs (VA) scandal grows, one senator wants the VA secretary to resign and another proposes a bill to help victims of mismanagement.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is working on legislation that would allow veterans to sue VA employees for falsifying or destroying patient records, according to a statement from Toomey's office.

The VA Accountability Act would allow veterans' lawyers to use court discovery to determine whether the VA delayed their clients' treatment using "secret wait lists," as in recent cases in Phoenix, Toomey said, according to the statement.

"The men and women who served in uniform should be first in line for the best quality medical care in the world," Toomey said, according to a statement to press. "That's why I will introduce legislation to allow veterans to hold VA employees accountable if they falsify or destroy information relating to a veteran's healthcare. My legislation would also authorize the firing of VA employees who engage in such activity."

Last week, President Barack Obama called for a nationwide investigation into misconduct at VA hospitals, although he stopped short of calling for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Meanwhile, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) offended veterans' groups by chastising them for not calling for Shinseki's firing, according to the Associated Press. Four groups--the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans and Vietnam Veterans of America--called Burr's suggestion that veterans' organizations are "more interested in their own livelihoods and Washington connections" than what is best for veterans, "ugly and mean-spirited and profoundly wrong."

Most doctors at individual VA facilities have their own "horror stories," pediatric urological surgeon Hal Scherz, M.D., wrote in the Wall Street Journal, such as administrators limiting operating time to make sure work stopped by 3 p.m. Moreover, a recent Freedom of Information Act request by Illinois-based watchdog group Open the Books found that the seven most troubled VA facilities paid out nearly $9 million in bonuses to 13,000 employees, according to Investor's Business Daily.

On Tuesday, the Army dismissed the commander of the Womack Army Medical Center in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, due to the deaths of two patients while seeking treatment in the facility's emergency department, according to WRAL-TV.

To learn more:
- read Toomey's statement
- here's the AP article 
- read the WSJ article
- check out the IBD article
- read the WRAL-TV article

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