Pete Scovill confirmed in an e-mail that the Augusta medical center is not connected to a investigation commissioned last month after reports surfaced of a secret waiting list at the agency’s Phoenix hospital that led to 40 veteran deaths.
Last week, Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin told a Senate committee at least 10 new allegations of manipulated waiting times and other problems have been identified within the VA. On Tuesday, his office reported that more than two dozen facilities, including some in Georgia, are under investigation in connection with the case.
The possible inclusion of Georgia facilities led two Georgia Democratic congressmen – Reps. John Barrow and David Scott – to become the first members of President Obama’s party Wednesday to call for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki.
Barrow said Wednesday he still supports his resignation request, describing inadequate care in the VA as a “festering problem” and a “massive bureaucratic failure.” The Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center has been involved in an ongoing investigation by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs since 2013 for three veteran deaths in 2012 caused by excessive delays in its gastrointestinal program.
“My responsibility is to make sure veterans everywhere are cared for the way they should be,” Barrow said. “The fact that these missteps have occurred in districts all around the country is worse than if it happened in our district alone.”
Scott called for Shinseki’s resignation during debate on the VA Management Accountability Act, a bill the House passed 390-33 Wednesday evening to give the VA secretary greater authority to fire or demote senior executives.
All of Augusta’s area congressmen – Reps. Barrow, Paul Broun, R-Ga., and Joe Wilson, R-S.C. – voted in favor of the bill.
The bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, applauded the support, saying it’s an “important first step toward ending the culture of complacency that is jeopardizing patient safety within the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system.”
He asked for the support of the Senate, which has yet to set a date to vote on the act.
“While the vast majority of the department’s more than 300,000 employees and executives are dedicated and hard-working, VA’s well-documented reluctance to ensure its leaders are held accountable for negligence and mismanagement is tarnishing the reputation of the organization and may actually be encouraging more veteran suffering instead of preventing it,” Miller said in a statement. “With all the problems VA hospitals and regional offices have recently had and new issues continually arising, we need to give the VA Secretary the authority he needs to fix things.”