The former clinic director of the Phoenix Veterans Health Care Center (“Phoenix VA”), who retired in December 2013 after twenty four years of service at the Phoenix VA, has reportedly accused the Phoenix VA of creating a secret list in February 2013 of about 1,400 veterans who were waiting for VA medical appointments for whom appointments were unreasonably delayed, sometimes being placed on the list for many months before being contacted to schedule a medical appointment, leading to the death of about 40 veterans. The retired physician claims that the paper list was transferred to electronic form during June or July 2013, after which the paper list was shredded
The top officials at the Phoenix VA have denied the claim of the secret list (which was allegedly shredded to hide its existence). However, it has been reported that the former clinic director’s allegations have been supported by other Phoenix VA personnel.
The scandalous allegations have reached the office of President Obama, who stated on April 28, 2014: “The moment we heard about the allegations around these 40 individuals who died in Phoenix, I immediately ordered Secretary of Veterans Affairs General Shinseki to investigate.”
During an on-camera interview on April 29, 2014, the Director of the Phoenix VA and the chief of staff of the Phoenix VA both denied the existence of a secret list but acknowledged that the Office of the Inspector General is presently investigating the matter (the Director of the Phoenix VA acknowledged that she had been interviewed by investigators during December 2013 but asserted that she was unaware of the reason for the investigation at that time). The Director of the Phoenix VA stated during the April 29, 2014 interview: “We have never instructed our staff to create a secret list, to maintain a secret list, to shred a secret list. That has never come from our office as far as instruction to our staff.”
On May 1, 2014, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki issued the following statement: “We take these allegations very seriously. Based on the request of the independent VA Office of Inspector General, in view of the gravity of the allegations and in the interest of the Inspector General’s ability to conduct a thorough and timely review of the Phoenix VA Health Care System (PVAHCS), I have directed that PVAHCS Director Sharon Helman, PVAHCS Associate Director Lance Robinson, and a third PVAHCS employee be placed on administrative leave until further notice. Providing Veterans the quality care and benefits they have earned through their service is our only mission at the Department of Veterans Affairs. We care deeply for every Veteran we are privileged to serve. We believe it is important to allow an independent, objective review to proceed. These allegations, if true, are absolutely unacceptable and if the Inspector General’s investigation substantiates these claims, swift and appropriate action will be taken. Veterans deserve to have full faith in their VA health care. I appreciate the continued hard work and dedication of our employees and of the community stakeholders we work with every day in our service to Veterans.”
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