BURLINGTON, Vt., Aug. 26 – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today issued the following statement on an inspector general’s investigation into long wait times and attempts to cover up care delays at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix:
“The report by the inspector general on the Phoenix VA provides troubling details about a hospital that failed to meet our nation’s obligation to provide timely, quality health care to veterans. What happened in Phoenix is inexcusable and must never happen again in any VA facility. The people who lied or manipulated data at Phoenix and elsewhere must be held accountable. I was relieved, however, that the IG was ‘unable to conclusively assert’ that patients died because of long waiting lines as news media reports had widely speculated.
“I look forward to studying the important recommendations of the inspector general and plan to hold a committee hearing in the near future to take a closer look at the problems in Phoenix and the lessons we all must learn to make sure that what happened there is not repeated.
“The veterans of our country deserve high quality health care delivered in a timely manner. Most veterans understand that, once they gain access to the VA, the quality of care is good. Our job is to eliminate long waiting periods so that veterans can access VA health care when they need to. With the passage of bipartisan legislation this summer, we are making progress in that direction. The legislation will go a long way toward ending unacceptably long waiting times for some veterans and give the VA the resources to hire the doctors, nurses and other medical staff it needs to address these problems over the long term.
“Much more needs to be done to address the needs of the veterans’ community. At the American Legion convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, I will discuss plans for eliminating long delays for processing disability claims, spell out a proposal for improved dental care and mental health services, and call for expansion of a caregivers program to help family members providing round-the-clock care for disabled veterans.”