NM lawmakers call for resignation of VA secretary

Updated: 05/29/2014 2:00 PM | Created: 05/29/2014 11:27 AM
By: Elizabeth Reed,

U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall and Reps. Steve Pearce, Ben Ray Lujan and Michelle Lujan Grisham are calling for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to step down amid allegations of a disturbing cover-up at the VA hospital in Phoenix.

A preliminary report released by the VA's Office of Inspector General found that least 1,700 veterans waiting for health care services at the Phoenix VA medical facility were not included on the facility's wait list, and patients there waited an average of 115 days for their first appointments.

The interim report also found that inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic at VA medical facilities nationwide, including manipulation of wait times to see a doctor.

"I have a mountain of respect for what General Shinseki has done in service to our country, but our nation's veterans deserve nothing less than the very best service our nation has to offer. Tragically, that has not always been the case. The fact that veterans in Phoenix were left off waiting lists and that veterans waited an average of 115 days for their first appointments is absolutely unacceptable. Furthermore, the confirmation of problems being systemic and not limited to Phoenix, is even more disturbing," Heinrich said in a statement.

On Thursday, Udall also announced that he would submit his first report to the Office of the Inspector General based on what he has heard from New Mexico veterans, family members and others who have contacted his office.

"I have called for an immediate investigation of New Mexico's VA," Udall said in a statement. "The veterans and others who have contacted me have reported very serious concerns with the scheduling system and other issues that have directly affected the level of care they are receiving. We must get to the bottom of this -- and fast. I continue to urge those with knowledge of VA scheduling manipulation in New Mexico to contact the OIG or my office. We cannot stop until the VA health system has comprehensive reform and the resources it needs. Veterans deserve nothing less than the best health care we can provide."

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki
Photo: NBC News

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