Rep. John Barrow called on Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki to resign Wednesday in the wake of reports that 26 VA clinics nationwide, including some in Georgia, are under investigation for failing to provide adequate care for veterans.
The Augusta congressman’s staff said they did not know if the Charlie Norwood VA Medical center is among the facilities that the department’s inspector general said Tuesday his office was investigating amid allegations of manipulated wait times, delayed appointments and at least 63 patient deaths.
Pete Scovill, spokesman for the Augusta VA, said he was not aware of the hospital being included in the investigation for delaying endoscopies for more than 4,500 veterans and as a result, contributing to the deaths of at least three cancer patients.
E-mail messages seeking confirmation of the Augusta facility’s involvement in the national investigation produced no immediate replies from the VA’s central office in Washington D.C.
“Secretary Shinseki is a decorated veteran who has served this country honorably, and I’ve personally met him on numerous occasions and found him to be devoted to caring for this nation’s heroes,” Barrow said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this administration has fallen short in providing the kind of care that our veterans have earned. While I don’t think a change in leadership will immediately solve the serious problems that plague the VA, I do think it’s time to give someone else an opportunity to lead the agency and begin the rebuilding process to ensure these issues never happen again.”
Barrow said his frustration comes from a widespread lack of accountability in the VA. The department announced last week that it accepted the resignation of Undersecretary for Health, Dr. Robert Petzel, who already had plans to retire later this year.
In March, The Augusta Chronicle reported that the former chief of staff of the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, Dr. Luke Stapleton, resigned from the position in 2013 under threat of discipline, but remains a paid employee of the hospital.
Barrow’s assertions come as Congress prepares to vote Wednesday on a bill introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, that would give the VA secretary greater authority to fire or demote senior executives.