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Shinseki set to testify about alleged secret list hiding VA treatment delays

Updated 9:00 am, May 13, 2014

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is scheduled to testify Thursday about the state of the Department of Veterans Affairs, with Senate lawmakers poised to question him about VA health clinics allegedly covering up treatment delays.

The hearing, which takes place with the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee starting at 10 a.m., comes 10 days after the American Legion called for Shinseki and two of his top executives to resign over the latest controversy and a string of other troubles, including the agency’s longstanding backlog of disability claims and preventable deaths at its medical centers.

Lawmakers are likely to challenge Shinseki over the amount of time he took to order the preservation of all electronic and paper evidence related to the purported treatment delays. House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) has said he requested the action at an April 9 hearing but that the department did not comply for eight days.

The latest scandal erupted when a former VA doctor alleged the department’s Phoenix health clinic developed a secret system to hide treatment delays, possibly affecting dozens of patients who died while waiting for care.  CNN first reported the claims late last month, and other whistleblowers have substantiated them, according to the news network.

A later report from the VA’s Office of the Medical Inspector said Fort Collins, Colo., medical center falsified appointment records to give the impression that staff doctors had seen patients within the department’s goal of 14 to 30 days, according to a USA Today article.

Shinseki has requested an inspector general’s investigation into allegations, in addition to ordering face-to-face audits of all VA medical centers and placing three of the Phoenix center’s executives on administrative leave while the reviews take place.

Last week, the House Veterans Affairs Committee voted unanimously to subpoena top VA officials for documents related to the growing health clinic controversies.

The White House has said President Obama remains confident that Shinseki will take appropriate action in response to the findings.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars has refrained from demanding removals, instead calling on Shinseki to take strong action to restore faith in the VA and insisting that Congress needs to exercise stronger oversight of the department.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the hearing was scheduled for Tuesday instead of its actual time on Thursday.

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