Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers urged Veteran Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric K. Shinseki to resign Wednesday following the results of a preliminary report that confirmed systemic problems with scheduling appointments and care delays at VA medical facilities nationwide.
Democratic Senators John Walsh of Montana, an Iraq war veteran, Mark Udall of Colorado and Kay Hagan of North Carolina joined Republicans Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida, chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and Sen. John McCain of Arizona in calls for the retired four-star Army general to step down, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Miller said in a statement that Shinseki "served his country honorably, but he failed to get VA's healthcare system in order… What's worse, to this day, Shinseki--in both word and deed--appears completely oblivious to the severity of the healthcare challenges facing the department."
McCain said during a news conference Wednesday that if Shinseki doesn't step down voluntarily, President Barack Obama must fire him, AZCentral reported.
Obama continues to stand behind Shinseki for now, although White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the President found the findings "extremely troubling," the LA Times reported.
The VA's Office of Inspector General's interim report found that 1,400 veterans were on an appropriate waitlist at the Phoenix healthcare system, but an additional 1,700 veterans were waiting for a primary care appointment and weren't on a waitlist, FierceHealthcare reported yesterday. Furthermore, 226 veterans waited an average of 115 days for their first primary care appointment.
"These veterans were and continue to be at risk of being forgotten or lost in Phoenix HCS' convoluted scheduling process," the report said. "As a result, these veterans may never obtain a requested or required clinical appointment."
By failing to place veterans on the appropriate waitlist, the Phoenix VA leaders understated the wait times for new patients, a factor for awards and salary increases, the report determined.
Since the allegations first surfaced last month that the Phoenix facility kept a secret waitlist to cover up delays in care and that as many as 40 veterans died as a result, the investigation has expanded to 42 VA facilities, according to the OIG report. The final report is expected in August.