Politics

VA Chief To Withhold Information From Congress, Citing Ongoing Investigation

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Patrick Howley
Political Reporter

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki will cite an ongoing inspector general investigation as his reason not to provide information to Congress when he appears before the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs Thursday morning.

Shinseki will testify in response to revelations that a VA medical center in Phoenix kept a secret waiting list that led to preventable veteran deaths. Whistleblowers subsequently revealed malpractice with regard to patient wait times in at least four other VA medical facilities. The national commander of the American Legion, which has called for Shinseki to resign, will join other veteran groups in testifying at the 10 AM hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

But Shinseki plans to avoid providing information, CNN reports, that he says could interfere with an inspector general investigation that he invited.

“I am personally angered and saddened by any adverse consequence that a veteran might experience while in, or as a result of, our care,” Shinseki said in prepared testimony to be submitted to the committee.

“In response to allegations about scheduling and delays at the Phoenix VA, I invited an independent investigation by the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) to conduct a comprehensive, thorough and timely review,” Shinseki said. ”If these allegations are true, they are completely unacceptable — to veterans, to me and to our dedicated [Veterans Health Administration] employees. If they are substantiated by OIG, responsible and timely action will be taken.”

Philip Matkovsky, assistant deputy under secretary for health for administrative operations in Shinseki’s VA, said that “The system [for scheduling veteran appointments] is largely unchanged” since it was first established in 1985. A House committee voted last week to subpoena Shinseki for information about deadly wait times. The White House dispatched deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors to help lead the VA cleanup process.

The Daily Caller previously reported that VA employees purged veteran medical records at a VA facility in Los Angeles as part of a nationwide “mass purge” of backlogged patient exam requests. VA acknowledged that medical records were purged at a facility it oversaw in New Mexico. The agency’s backlog of severely delayed veteran benefit claims stands at more than 300,000 claims.

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