The government will launch an investigation and inquiry into the alleged cover-up of service and treatment delays for more than 1,400 ailing veterans, some of whom died while awaiting treatment, the Washington Post reported.
The Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general's office will look into the allegations as a result of a CNN investigative report that revealed the Phoenix VA hospital avoided reporting long-term delays by creating a "secret waiting list."
"I am troubled when I hear that any veteran may have received substandard service from VA. We, as a nation, have a commitment to provide timely, quality healthcare to veterans, and I am determined to assist VA in meeting this responsibility," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), head of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, wrote in a letter to Arizona Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, who requested the action. Sanders added the committee would hold a hearing after the inspector general completed its report.
Sam Foote, M.D., who retired after working for the Phoenix VA for 24 years, lodged a series of complaints with the agency's inspector general, claiming long waits drove veterans to the emergency room (ER) for care, the Wall Street Journal reported.
One veteran who was sent home after receiving treatment at the ER died of bladder cancer before a VA primary care physician could see him. The VA called to schedule an appointment after his death, unaware he died, according to the WSJ.
The VA typically requires system hospitals to provide care within 14 to 30 days, Foote said, but hospital officials instructed doctors not to create patient appointments in the computer system to hide how many vets weren't seen within that timeframe, FierceHealthcare reported last week. Instead, doctors were told to screenshot appointment information on the computer, print it out, and then erase the data, removing any electronic record of a scheduled visit. The hospital placed the printout information on the "secret" electronic list and destroyed the hard copy, Foote said.