So-Called 'Secret Wait List' Under Investigation at VA Hospital in Phoenix
Updated: Tuesday, May 13 2014, 11:03 AM EDT
The House Veterans Affairs Committee has subpoenaed all emails and communications between Veterans Secretary Eric Shinseki and his staff concerning a so-called "secret wait list" at the VA in Phoenix, first reported by CNN.
Shinseki has also ordered a national review, to determine how long veterans are actually waiting for care. Now investigators from the VA's office of the inspector general are on the ground, trying to determine if managers at this sprawling VA hospital were trying to hide the fact veterans have been waiting months to get care, and if any veterans died as a result.
The allegations come from Brian Turner, a clerk who works in the hospital's medical administrative services department and is speaking publicly for the first time. He says his job is to help veterans secure appointments but claims he was told to "fudge the numbers."
Turner was to meet the VA's own national timeline goal for setting appointments. That goal is no more than 14 days from when a veteran wants an appointment, called the "desired date."
The problem, he says, is the appointment deadlines cannot be met, so he says he was instructed to simply schedule the appointment months and months in advance, while making a note that that is the veteran's desired date.
In a statement to CNN, the VA's public affairs office says Turner's allegations were investigated, and that: "Based on our internal fact finding conducted April 25-28, we found the claims by this employee were not substantiated."
But Turner questions just how much fact finding went on.
He says no one asked him about his allegations and in fact says when he began emailing his concerns to other staff members, he was told to stop it.
Turner, an army veteran himself, has asked for whistle-blower protection and become a witness in an investigation now being conducted by the VA's office of inspector general.