Experts and doctors once involved in the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) healthcare system said they don't believe the agency's Inspector General's report captured the impact delays in care had on veteran deaths during a heated hearing in front of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs this week.
Sam Foote, M.D., the whistleblower who exposed the care delays within the VA system, wants an independent review of delays in care at the Phoenix VA, CNN reported. Foote, who retired from the VA after 25 years of service, said the inspector general's report downplayed data manipulation that he thinks contributed to the death of more than 40 veterans. "In my opinion, this was a conspiracy, possibly criminal, perpetrated by senior Phoenix leaders," Foote said during testimony Wednesday.
Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, was disappointed the report didn't bring more issues to light. "It's absolutely inexplicable and outrageous that the IG's Phoenix report failed to clearly make these distinctions," he said in a statement at the hearing.
The report, released in August, said there was no conclusive link to the death at the facility to long wait times. To date, the VA inspector general opened wait time manipulation investigations at 93 sites, only 12 of which have been completed, CNN reported.
However the media attention and reforms since the allegations made a huge impact on the current VA treatment system, Katherine L. Mitchell, M.D., medical director of the Iraq and Afghanistan post-deployment center within the Phoenix VA Health Care System, testified.
"It has been amazing to see the changes within our institution over the last several months which have enabled us to rapidly address many of the needs of veterans in our system to a degree that would not have been possible prior to April 2014," Mitchell said during the hearing. "Problems with care consult backlogs, scheduling difficulties, and the EWL [electronic waitlist] have been significantly reduced or resolved."