Both sides of a congressional committee Thursday said the Department of Veterans Affairs is responding too slowly to its requests for information about a recent VA scheduling scandal.
Democrats and Republicans on the House Veterans Affairs Committee vented their frustration after three VA officials failed to appear for questioning at a Thursday hearing. The panel approved a motion to subpoena the employees if they do not testify by May 30.
The VA said its officials could not attend Thursday’s hearing because the invitation came with only 15 hours’ notice. The department has since agreed to have them testify May 28, according to committee staff.
The panel is investigating recent allegations that VA hospitals throughout the nation have manipulated their records to cover up treatment delays.
“I think we have to make the department aware that we do mean business,” said the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), who proposed the subpoena.
The committee first subpoenaed the VA on May 8 for documents and e-mails related to a scheduling list the department destroyed. The agency had delivered only 200 pages of records by Wednesday, but it handed over thousands more early Thursday.
House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said his patience is wearing thin.
“I haven’t called for the the secretary’s resignation, but others have — both sides of the aisle,” he said. “I want to wait for the IG’s report to come out before making that decision. But it’s very apparent that the department does not want to give the information that we need — not what they think we need — what we need to do our jobs.”
The American Legion, scores of Republicans and two Georia Democrats, Reps. John Barrow and David Scott, have demanded Shinseki’s removal.
The recent turmoil erupted last month after whistleblowers alleged that a Phoenix VA hospital had developed a secret list to hide scheduling delays. Although dozens of people died while waiting for care at the clinic, it is unclear whether their deaths are tied to the purported cover-up or the lack of treatment.
Miller said that the VA admitted in a report last month that it was responsible or potentially responsible for 23 patient deaths since 1999.
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