Citing secret waiting lists and possible “criminal wrongdoing” a bipartisan group of U.S. senators is calling on the Justice Department to open up a criminal probe into the Veterans Affairs scandal.
According to reports, the “letter to Attorney General Eric Holder came as the department released an internal review showing more than 57,000 veterans have been waiting for up to three months for medical appointments. An additional 64,000 who enrolled for VA health care over the past decade have never been seen by a doctor, according to the audit.”
The senators wait DOJ to take the lead in the ongoing investigation.
“Evidence of secret waiting times, falsification of records, destruction of documents, and other potential criminal wrongdoing has appalled and angered the nation, and imperiled trust and confidence in the Veterans Health Administration,” 21 senators wrote in a letter sent late last week to Holder.
“The spreading and growing scale of apparent criminal wrongdoing is fast outpacing the criminal investigative resources of the IG, and the revelations in the interim report only highlight the urgency of involvement by the Department of Justice,” they wrote. “This challenge requires resources that only the Department of Justice can provide in developing and assessing evidence, pursuing leads, and initiating active prosecutions aggressively if warranted.”
They also cited an internal audit which said a 14-day target for waiting times wasn’t attainable due to demand and poor planning. It also cited what it called “an organizational leadership failure” when it came to paying the controversial bonuses that recently made news.
The audit released Monday said 13 percent of VA schedulers reported getting instructions from supervisors or others to falsify appointment dates in order to meet on-time performance goals. About 8 percent of schedulers said they used alternatives to an official electronic waiting list, often under pressure to make waiting times appear more favorable.
Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said the audit showed “systemic problems” that demand immediate action. VA officials have contacted 50,000 veterans across the country to get them off waiting lists and into clinics, Gibson said, and are in the process of contacting an additional 40,000 veterans.