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President Obama Vows to Investigate Phoenix VA Hospital

Posted on behalf of Phillips Law Group on May 23, 2014 in Local

The President briefed the country Wednesday about the growing controversy centered around the Phoenix VA Hospital.

For the past month, allegations have been swirling accusing the Phoenix VA of widespread impropriety and maintaining secret waiting lists which kept veterans waiting months for treatment. At least 40 veterans are believed to have died while languishing on a hidden waiting list.

President Obama addressed reporters on Wednesday, saying "When I heard allegations of misconduct any misconduct, whether it's allegations of VA staff covering up long wait times or cooking the books I will not stand for it, not as commander in chief, but also not as an American,"

Controversy Grows

At least 26 VA facilities nationwide are being investigated for their patient practices. The Phoenix VA Hospital, where the controversy first erupted, faces some of the most egregious accusations.

To hide a large backlog in patients waiting to be seen, the Phoenix VA developed a secret waiting list for patients which was different than the reports the VA provided to Washington.

According to several whistleblowers, when a veteran would come to the Phoenix VA Hospital seeking treatment, VA employees would make him or her an appointment on their computer system, but would not save it. Instead, a copy of the appointment computer screen was printed out, and the electronic information was deleted. The information from the hard copy paper printout was then used to place the veteran on the secret list, where he or she might say for several months or even years until an appointment could be made. Once an appointment was made for the veteran, his or her information was re-entered into the computer shortly before the date of the appointment and saved - making it appear that the veteran had only waited a few days from the time he or she sought an appointment to the time that he or she actually saw a physician. Whistleblowers estimate that at least 1,400 to 1,600 veterans are currently on this secret list.

Email communications obtained by CNN show that the hospitals top management, including Phoenix VA Hospital Director Sharon Helman, were well-aware of the practice and even defended its use to VA employees.

Washington Investigates

A top white house aide is heading to Phoenix to analyze the situation. All records, secret or not, have been ordered to be preserved for the official review, though VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has acknowledged that some notes and records were already destroyed.

In addition, the House of Representatives has passed the VA Management Accountability Act, meant to curb some of these abuses. It is not yet known if the Senate will also pass this Act.

As for Phoenix VA Director Sharon Helman, she was placed on leave after these allegations surfaced. She was also ordered to repay the nearly $10,000 she received in bonus pay from the federal government.

It remains to be seen how these accusations will affect veterans health care in the near future or in the long term. One thing is for certain, however: Our veterans deserve better.

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