Veterans' Health
3:11 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Blumenthal Wants Justice Department to Investigate Veterans Affairs

Connecticut's U.S Senator Richard Blumenthal
Credit Chion Wolf

Connecticut's congressional delegation has yet to hear from VA officials on how long veterans are waiting for appointments at the agency's hospitals and outpatient clinics in the state. 

The delegation put in the request after reports of VA staff in Phoenix manipulating data to hide actual wait times. A VA Connecticut spokesperson told WNPR a local audit won't be finished until next week.

The results will be part of a nationwide audit of the VA system that Secretary Eric Shinseki is expected to share with President Obama. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal wants those audits to be released to the public. "They will show whether there has been the same kinds of evidence of criminal wrongdoing in destruction of documents, secret waiting lists, false record keeping, and covering up," he said.

The VA's Inspector General substantiated reports that staff in Phoenix hid actual wait times to gain performance bonuses. Now, Blumenthal wants the Department of Justice to get involved. "The Department of Justice has an obligation to do the investigation," he said, "and opportunity to restore faith and confidence in the VA, as well as our justice system."

Members of Congress and some veterans groups have called on Shinseki to resign. Blumenthal, who sits on the Senate Veterans Affairs and Armed Services Committees, isn't one of them. "The challenge to the VA health care system is more than just firing one person," he said. "It's about fixing what's wrong; the delays and the obstacles to health care delivery, and access to the good doctors and nurses who provide that health care."

Blumenthal said it's clear that better management is needed. If Shinseki stays, he said, the VA secretary needs to show greater urgency to correct what's wrong within the system.

Meanwhile, Congressman Jim Himes issued a statement Thursday afternoon joining other lawmakers in calling for Shinseki's resignation.