VA Secretary testifies to U.S. Senate - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

VA Secretary testifies to U.S. Senate

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PHOENIX (KSAZ) - The VA is under fire in Phoenix and across the country for delays in care, and there may be as many as 40 who have died while on secret waiting lists.

On Thursday, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs testified at a Senate hearing and pledged to take action if the allegations are proven true.

Senators are alleging that VA Staff may have "cooked the books" in order to report shorter wait times and look better to their superiors.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki acknowledged that the long wait times are something the VA has been trying to improve for years. As for what happened here in the valley, he says the Inspector General's office will get to the bottom of it.

"Any allegation, any adverse incident like this makes me mad as hell. I could use stronger language here but in deference to the committee I won't," he said.

A senator on the committee asked him, "Can you explain to me why in light of all this information you should not resign", he replied, "I came here to make things better, this is not a job, I am here to accomplish a mission that I think they critically deserve," said Shinseki.

"I think you heard in the testimony what we tried to do. Obviously the Inspector General will give us the results of his look at Phoenix, and we are broadening that look. And what I've committed to is whatever comes out of this, what is substantiated, actions will be taken. We will take actions," said Shinseki.

Dr. Sam Foote watched this morning's testimony; he is the retired VA doctor and now whistleblower.

He was surprised to learn from the secretary's testimony that three top leaders at the Phoenix VA were removed from their position at the request of the Inspector General.

"My goal was to get the IG here, and have them take a look through which they are. I know nobody thought that the IG was going to get to the bottom of it, but they are, because I know what they are doing behind the scenes and have been doing," he said.

"Where is the incentive for the upper leadership... to go out and actually try to keep people from cheating. When it produces better looking numbers for them, and I think they are much more interested in better looking numbers than they are about providing actual good care," said Foote.

One of the Senators today said he believes there is plenty of evidence of criminal wrongdoing and urged the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to get the Federal Bureau of Investigation involved in the Phoenix investigation.

In response, the Secretary said he'll give the Inspector General's office whatever help it needs.
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