Lawmakers call for resignation of Phoenix VA head over secret waitlist

Three members of Arizona's Congressional delegation called for the head of the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care Center to resign in the wake of a treatment-delay scandal that led to the death of at least 40 military vets, the Associated Press reports.

The vets died while awaiting treatment from the Phoenix VA system, and were on a "secret" list meant to conceal more than 1,000 ailing veterans, compared to an on-the-record list that falsified timely appointments. In a letter to Director Sharon Helman, Republican Reps. Matt Salmon, Trent Franks and David Schweikert urged her to step down, saying "drastic changes need to be made to ensure that this never happens again."

"In order to begin to restore faith in the veteran's healthcare system," the letter states, "department executives who were aware of and presided over this unethical and alarming mismanagement must be held accountable." The three sent another letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki calling on him to remove Helman and the rest of hospital leadership, according to the article. The U.S. Office of the Inspector General is investigating the allegations, which come on the heels of similar reports of delayed care or poor oversight in VA facilities in Florida, Georgia, Washington state and South Carolina, according to the AP.

Samuel Foote, M.D., who worked for the Phoenix VA for more than two decades before his retirement in December, brought the allegations to Congress, claiming supervisors ignored his complaints. The Phoenix VA office said in a statement Tuesday that the agency "takes these allegations very seriously" and is "committed to delivering the highest quality care to veterans."

"[Foote] has no ax to grind with the VA," Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) told the AP. "I think he tried to bring this to the attention of executives and basically was shunned and felt the need to raise it to a higher level."

To learn more:
- here's the article
- read the letter (.pdf)

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