Corker, Alexander Call for “Thorough, Open and Transparent” Veterans Affairs Investigation

Senators Urge VA to Consider a Third-Party Review, Seek Tennessee-Specific Information

Posted on May 13, 2014

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today sent a letter to U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric K. Shinseki calling on the VA to conduct a “through, open and transparent” audit following reports of neglect at some of its medical facilities, including allegations that up to 40 patients may have died because of delayed care at the Phoenix VA Health Care System. While Secretary Shinseki recently announced a “face-to-face” audit of all VA medical facilities, the senators urged the department to consider using a third-party auditor to ensure the review “is independent and transparent," and also requested information on Tennessee VA facilities.

“The gravity of these allegations demands a thorough, open and transparent investigation,” wrote the senators. “As the VA conducts its internal audit, we urge you to consider partnering with an outside organization and conduct a joint review, or use a third-party auditor to examine the claims made against the VA to help ensure the review is independent and transparent.”

Corker and Alexander said if allegations of records manipulation at the Phoenix VA are found to be true, it “would represent a massive failure of the VA” and would “demonstrate a complete breach of faith with the community it is mandated to serve.”

The senators also asked Shinseki to provide specific information regarding the average time Tennessee veterans are waiting for care at VA facilities.

“At the completion of the audit, in addition to the findings and recommendations, we request that you provide us with the average time between patients presenting themselves and when they receive treatment at all VA facilities in Tennessee,” they continued. “Our veterans deserve better, and we intend to closely monitor the investigation to ensure they receive every benefit they have earned.” 

Full text of the letter is included below or available by clicking here.

Dear Secretary Shinseki:

We write to you today to express our profound concern about recent allegations regarding the deaths of veterans waiting for care from Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers and your announcement of a "face-to-face audit" at all VA medical facilities. It is critical to immediately address the persistent process and organizational failures that have been emerging on a regular basis.

The allegation that the Phoenix VA Health Care System maintained an alternative list, where veterans’ appointments were arranged in a shell game to manipulate the historic backlog for care, is deeply troubling. If these allegations are found to be true, this would represent a massive failure of the VA, which already is struggling to maintain its credibility, and demonstrate a complete breach of faith with the community it is mandated to serve.

The gravity of these allegations demands a thorough, open and transparent investigation. As the VA conducts its internal audit, we urge you to consider partnering with an outside organization and conduct a joint review, or use a third-party auditor to examine the claims made against the VA to help ensure the review is independent and transparent. 

At the completion of the audit, in addition to the findings and recommendations, we request that you provide us with the average time between patients presenting themselves and when they receive treatment at all VA facilities in Tennessee. Our veterans deserve better, and we intend to closely monitor the investigation to ensure they receive every benefit they have earned.

Thank for your consideration of this matter and your service to our nation.

Sincerely,

Bob Corker

United States Senator

Lamar Alexander

United States Senator

 

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