The Washington Post

Official inquiries begin for Phoenix VA hospital with alleged ‘secret waiting list’


VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki tours the VA Medical Center-Hampton, in Hampton, Va. (Matt Eich for The Washington Post).

A congressional inquiry and a watchdog probe await the Department of Veterans Affairs after a Phoenix VA hospital allegedly tried to cover up delays in service for more than 1,400 sick veterans, some of whom died while waiting for care.

The VA inspector general’s office has launched an investigation of the claims, and the head of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), has promised to hold a hearing on the matter after the review is complete.

“Once the IG collects additional information, we can engage in a more informed deliberation on the allegations,” Sanders said in a letter to Arizona Sens. John McCain (R) and Jeff Flake (R), who requested action by the panel.

CNN reported last week that the Phoenix VA hospital developed a “secret waiting list” to avoid reporting extended delays as department policy requires. The agency paid a $9,000 bonus last year to the medical center’s director, Sharon Helman, who also received a base salary of $196,900, according to publicly available data.

Veterans groups quickly condemned the alleged scheme last week. The Veterans of Foreign Wars has demanded accountability, including criminal prosecution, for any VA leaders responsible for the purported actions.

“When you deal with lives, there should be no leniency granted to anyone with any knowledge of this alleged cover-up, to include everyone in Phoenix who knew but didn’t tell, and those in oversight positions at the VA network and VA headquarters in Washington who knew but didn’t care.”

The American Legion met to discuss the matter last week with the VA’s assistant deputy undersecretary of health for clinical operations. Daniel Dellinger, the group’s national commander, said the official provided “no useful answers” about the issue, claiming he tried to “mask it as some kind of human error with software.”

The VA said in a statement on Friday that it has sent a team of clinical experts to Phoenix to review appointment scheduling procedures and any delays in care at that facility.

“These allegations, if true, are absolutely unacceptable and if the Inspector General’s investigation substantiates these claims, VA will take swift and appropriate action,” the department said in a statement.

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks(at)washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, and The Fed Page for more federal news. Submit news tips and suggestions to federalworker@washpost.com.

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
New Hampshire has voted. The Democrats debate on Thursday. Get caught up on the race.
The Post's Philip Rucker and Robert Costa say...
For Trump, the victory here was sweet vindication, showing that his atypical campaign could prevail largely on the power of celebrity and saturation media coverage. But there was also potential for concern in Tuesday's outcome. Trump faces doubts about his discipline as a candidate and whether he can build his support beyond the levels he has shown in the polls.
The Post's John Wagner and Anne Gearan say...
Hillary Clinton, who was declared the winner of the Iowa caucuses last week by the narrowest of margins, now finds herself struggling to right her once-formidable campaign against a self-described democratic socialist whom she has accused of selling pipe dreams to his supporters.
Quoted
People have every right to be angry. But they're also hungry for solutions.
Hillary Clinton, in her New Hampshire primary night speech
Quoted
I am going to be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.
Donald Trump, in his New Hampshire primary victory speech
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
See results from N.H.
Most Read

politics

federal-eye

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.