RELEASE:

Wicker Calls on VA to Respond to ‘Troubling’ New Reports

Only ‘One to Six’ People Responsible for Patient Wait-Time Problems Have Been Fired

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., is calling on Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald to answer new allegations that only “one to six” people who were responsible for manipulating waiting-list data have been fired in the past two years. Wicker was joined by 13 Senators in sending a letter authored by Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., to the agency in the wake of the report.

Despite the Administration’s claims of new leadership at VA facilities across the country, a second report found that the agency simply moved existing managers between jobs and medical centers. Only eight of the 92 so-called “new managers” are from outside the VA.

“We have a solemn obligation to care for those who selflessly defended our nation at home and abroad,” Wicker said. “It is deeply troubling to see news reports showing that the VA continues to play musical chairs with employees who orchestrated elaborate schemes that denied veterans access to timely care. Veterans and taxpayers deserve to know why the VA has been so slow to remove these individuals despite having the authority to do so. The agency has had plenty of time to institute the reforms passed by Congress and signed into law nearly two years ago. The time for excuses is over.”

In their letter to Sec. McDonald, the Senators asked him to respond to the following questions:

•How many senior executives and mid-level supervisors have been fired or disciplined for their involvement in manipulated wait times for veterans at VA facilities nationwide?

•How many senior executives and mid-level managers were allowed the opportunity to quit, retire or find new jobs without consequences for their participation and knowledge of manipulated patient wait times?

•A GAO report states that the VA needs a new comprehensive scheduling plan to ensure that checks and balances are in place so no one can manipulate the current scheduling system. What measures have you put in place to stop manipulation of veterans’ appointment records? What is the timeframe for a new scheduling system?

•What legislative changes do you need from Congress to successfully change the culture of corruption, hire new leadership from outside the agency, and keep all VA employees accountable for their action?

10/24/16