WASHINGTON (AP) -- Government investigators found no proof that delays in care caused veterans to die at a Phoenix VA hospital, but they found widespread problems that the Veterans Affairs Department is promising to fix.<br />
Investigators uncovered large-scale improprieties in the way VA hospitals and clinics across the nation have been scheduling veterans for appointments, according to a report released Tuesday by the VA's Office of Inspector General.<br />
The report said workers falsified waitlists while their supervisors looked the other way or even directed it, resulting in chronic delays for veterans seeking care.<br />
"Inappropriate scheduling practices are a nationwide systemic problem," said the report by Richard Griffin, the VA's acting inspector general. "These practices became systemic because (the Veterans Health Administration) did not hold senior headquarters and facility leadership responsible and accountable."<br />
The report could deflate an explosive allegation that helped launch the scandal in the spring: that as many as 40 veterans died while awaiting care at the Phoenix VA hospital. Investigators identified 40 patients who died while awaiting appointments in Phoenix.<br />
But, the report said: "While the case reviews in this report document poor quality of care, we are unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely quality care caused the deaths of these veterans."<br />
Top VA officials said the report's findings were troubling.<br />
"I'm glad that veterans didn't die because of delays in care, or at least they weren't able to conclude that they did," Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said in an interview. "But the fundamental issue is, veterans are waiting too long, and that's the problem we've got to face."
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.
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.
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