As the acting secretary of Veterans Affairs tries to assure congressmen that he is moving to address the
The results are expected to be released Monday, as a House committee puts VA officials through another round of grilling over findings that VA employees falsified records to conceal long waits for medical appointments.
The challenges facing Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson in turning around his department's massive healthcare system were apparent Friday early in his meeting with three Texas congressmen at the Audie L. Murphy VA Medical Center in San Antonio.
Smith, a Republican whose district includes the VA hospital, said that Gibson was appalled to hear about the veteran's wait and promised to get in touch with him. Smith said Gibson also spoke movingly about wanting to fix the VA's bigger problems.
"Now we need to see the action," the congressman said in an interview.
The VA scandal moves to center stage on Capitol Hill next week, with the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs due to hear Monday night from the inspector general and the Senate expected to take up a bill aimed at reducing veterans' waits for healthcare.
The inspector general last week issued an interim report that sparked national outrage by finding a systemic problem nationwide in scheduling veterans for healthcare in a timely manner, including instances of VA staff falsifying records to cover up long waits. A final report is expected in August.
The VA has been conducting a separate audit of scheduling practices of VA facilities. The preliminary results, released May 30 after VA Secretary
Castro, a Democrat, said that he told Gibson he should be “very demanding of
Although the Phoenix VA, which Gibson visited Thursday, has been at the center of the scandal, veterans facilities in San Antonio, Austin and Waco are under investigation; a survey released this week said veterans have had to wait more than two months on average for mental health treatment at the El Paso VA and more than one-third never received the care.
Kansas lawmakers complained Friday that VA officials haven't answered their questions about reports of unauthorized waiting lists at the Wichita VA.
“We now have more questions than answers regarding the scheduling practices used behind closed doors at the Wichita VA facility,” said Rep.
In the meantime, veterans groups were waiting to review Senate VA reform legislation, which was still being drafted.
The legislation would allow veterans facing long waits at VA facilities to seek care from private doctors; expand the VA secretary's authority to fire or demote staffers for poor performance; establish 26 new VA health facilities in 18 states, including California; and provide $500 million to hire new VA doctors and nurses.
“In the current political environment, it’s nice to see the Congress come together on some form of compromise,” said Garry Augustine, executive director of the