Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) released the following statement on the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) interim report released today:
“I am deeply troubled by many of the findings in the interim report released today by the VA Inspector General on allegations of gross mismanagement and neglect at the Phoenix VA Health Care System (PVAHCS). The report details delays in care and manipulation of record that are ‘systemic throughout’ the VA. It finds that VA officials in Phoenix may have misreported data to headquarters to cover up wait times which averaged 115 days for initial primary care appointments. The IG reports that it has ‘received numerous allegations daily of mismanagement, inappropriate hiring decisions, sexual harassment, and bullying by mid- and senior-level managers’ – allegations which must be fully investigated and, if validated, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Most disturbing may be the report’s finding that some 1,700 veterans waiting for primary care appointments were never placed on the VA’s electronic wait list. According to the IG, ‘these veterans continue to be at risk of being forgotten or lost in Phoenix HCS’s convoluted scheduling process.’ It is totally unacceptable for our veterans to be ‘forgotten or lost’ by the VA.
“The IG’s report today tells a far different story than the one I received yesterday in a letter from Secretary Shinseki responding to an inquiry I made regarding these allegations last month. In his letter, Secretary Shinseki writes that since the new Phoenix VA leadership took over in 2012, ‘they initiated consistent application of VHA’s current national standard policy and use of the Electronic Waiting List (EWL).’ It is alarming that Secretary Shinseki either wasn’t aware of these systemic problems, or wasn’t forthcoming in his communications with Congress about them. Either way, it is clear to me that new leadership is needed at the VA.
“For these reasons, I believe that now is the time for Secretary Shinseki – a career soldier, a Vietnam combat veteran and a man whose career of service I have long admired – to step down from his post. Under new leadership, the VA must get to truth of these allegations, holt to account those responsible, institute far-reaching reforms, and begin to restore the confidence of the veterans it was established to serve. It is also time for any and all credible criminal allegations uncovered by the IG to be reviewed by the Justice Department for investigation.”