Placing VA hospital execs on leave not enough, vet says - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Placing VA hospital execs on leave not enough, vet says

PHOENIX (CBS5) -

The scandal surrounding the Veteran's hospital in Phoenix continues to grow.

Three executives have been placed on administrative leave following allegations of corruption, mismanagement, and the deaths of more than 40 patients.

Dan Caldwell is a former U.S. Marine, who now works for Concerned Veterans of America.

Caldwell said that placing top executives on leave is a good start, but if in fact they created a secret list to falsify wait times for medical treatment, they need to be held more accountable.

"There's strong evidence to suggest there was a monetary motive for the secret wait list," said Caldwell. "These administrators received bonuses if they reduced their wait times, and that was their incentive to do that. If they were trying to cover up a crime, that is obstruction of justice, and is now a federal criminal matter. That is serious."

Two weeks ago, CBS 5 interviewed Sharon Helman, director of Phoenix's VA healthcare system.

Helman denied knowledge of any secret list or widespread cover up.

On Friday, Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, released this statement:

"As if the allegations of patient deaths and a secret waiting list at the Phoenix VA Health Care System weren't bad enough, now we're hearing reports of possible attempts to cover up this despicable situation. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki did the right thing by placing three Phoenix VAHCS administrators on leave. But by no means does that common-sense step, which should have already been done weeks ago, take VA out of the hot seat. In order to restore Americans' faith in the integrity of the federal investigation in Phoenix, Sec. Shinseki needs to answer some very direct questions in short order. Why did it take VA a full eight days to order the preservation of possible evidence related to the investigation? What are VA leaders doing to ensure evidence is not destroyed in Phoenix? Why is VA Under Secretary for Health Robert Petzel claiming there is 'no evidence' to support the allegations in Phoenix even though he is not involved with the investigation? What is the factual basis for Petzel's claim? Now is not the time for carefully crafted press releases. Sec. Shinseki needs to answer these questions publicly, and he needs to answer them now."

Miller called for a more in-depth investigation - without delay - as to what took place at Phoenix's VA hospital. He also wants answers about what can be done system wide, to improve patient care.

"We do not believe more money is the solution," said Caldwell. "They have more than enough money to accomplish their mission. It needs to be more efficiently managed and divided within the Department of Veterans' Affairs. We cant just let the VA sweep this under the rug."

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved

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