clear
Friday September 4th, 2015 6:31AM

House to subpoena records in VA hospital deaths

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A House committee voted Thursday to subpoena records relating to a waiting list at the Phoenix veterans hospital, and officials said Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki had ordered a nationwide audit of access to care that the agency provides.

Meanwhile, Shinseki brushed aside calls for his resignation and got an unexpected political lifeline from House Speaker John Boehner following reports that 40 patients died because of delayed treatment at an agency hospital.

The American Legion and some in Congress have called for Shinseki's ouster following allegations of patient deaths at the Phoenix VA hospital due to delays in care and of a secret list the hospital kept of patients waiting for appointments to hide the delays.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee voted unanimously to subpoena all emails and other records in which Shinseki and other VA officials may have discussed destruction of what the committee called "an alternate or interim waitlist" for veterans seeking care in Phoenix.

A top VA official had told congressional staff last month that the "secret list" referred to in news reports may have been an "interim list" created by the hospital. And the committee had asked the VA on May 1 to answer why it was created, when it was destroyed, who authorized destruction and under what authority.

Shinseki answered in a letter Wednesday that VA employees used "transitory or interim notes ... for reference purposes" as they were moving information to the new electronic waitlist system. Regulations of the National Archives and Records Administration require that such notes be destroyed when they are no longer needed for reference, the VA says.

Dissatisfied with that response, the committee subpoenaed all documents relating to the destruction and gave Shinseki until 9 a.m. May 19 to produce them. The VA said in a statement that it will review the subpoena and respond.

Earlier Thursday, Shinseki told CBS that he sent inspectors to Phoenix immediately after he learned of reports about the deaths. "I take every one of these incidents and allegations seriously, and we're going to go and investigate," he said.

The VA also announced Thursday that Shinseki in recent days had ordered the Veterans Health Administration to do a "a face-to-face" audit over the next several weeks at all clinics at VA medical centers to make sure employees understand VA's policy and the need for continued integrity in managing patient access to care.

And at a Capitol Hill news conference, R-Ohio, said: "I'm not ready to join the chorus of people calling on him to step down." He added that there is a "systemic management issue throughout the VA that needs to be addressed."

Shinseki announced last week that three officials at the Phoenix facility have been placed on leave while the VA inspector general investigates.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has long had a seemingly endless backlog and exceedingly long delays for treatment.

Boehner said the House is working on legislation that would give the head of the agency "more flexibility to fire people."

The White House has voiced support for Shinseki amid the calls for his ouster from the American Legion as well as from Republican Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas and Jerry Moran of Kansas. Veterans groups are split on whether he should resign.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama has full confidence in Shinseki. He said Shinseki shares the president's passion for living up to the commitment that the U.S. has made to its veterans.

Earnest told reporters traveling with Obama in California that the VA has made tremendous progress in reducing the case backlog. He said while the backlog is moving in the right direction, the White House won't be satisfied until it is eliminated.

The VA has acknowledged that 23 patients have died as a result of delayed care in recent years. The VA's Office of Medical Inspector said clerks at a Fort Collins, Colorado, clinic were instructed last year on how to falsify appointment records. Other problems have occurred in Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia.
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 8 months ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 8 months ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 8 months ago )
U.S. News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 8 months ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 8 months ago )
Local/State News
Committee leaves transportation funding to lawmakers
Georgia will have to cover a $1 billion to $1.5 billion transportation funding gap to stay economically competitive, a committee of lawmakers is warning in a report issued Tuesday.
5:36AM ( 8 months ago )
US off war footing at year's end, but wars go on
Taking America off a permanent war footing is proving harder than President Barack Obama may have suggested.
6:13PM ( 8 months ago )
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 8 months ago )
Politics
Judge nixes 4-game 'Deflategate' suspension for Tom Brady; NFL quickly appeals to 2nd Circuit
NEW YORK (AP) — Tom Brady learned Thursday he will start the season on the field after a judge lifted the league's four-game suspension of the star quarterback for a scandal over deflated footballs, s...
9:19PM ( 9 hours ago )
Trump signs GOP pledge to back party's 2016 nominee, says he won't consider third-party bid
NEW YORK (AP) — Caving to intense Republican lobbying, presidential candidate Donald Trump ruled out the prospect of a third-party White House bid on Thursday and vowed to support whoever wins the par...
8:15PM ( 10 hours ago )
The Latest: Attorney for jailed clerk says decision unprecedented in American law
ASHLAND, Ky. (AP) — The latest on the county clerk in Kentucky who has refused to issue marriage licenses since the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage (all times local):5:20 p.m.An attorney for a Ke...
6:03PM ( 12 hours ago )
College Board reports lower SAT scores, most test-takers missing college-ready benchmark
WASHINGTON (AP) — Student performance on the SAT college entrance exam is lagging, continuing a mostly downward trend over the last five years.The College Board says in a report that a record number o...
8:14AM ( 22 hours ago )
1 Marine killed, 9 others hurt in helicopter hard landing at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP) — One Marine has been killed and 9 others were hurt when a helicopter made a hard landing at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.The CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter came down hard...
7:41AM ( 22 hours ago )