Veterans’ Administration Hospitals Under Scrutiny as Number of Patient Deaths Add Up

Veterans' Administration

Purple Heart recipient Ralph Nicastro died after waiting 15 months to see a specialist at the Veterans’ Administration hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, about a lump on his neck.

Nicastro wasn’t alone. Some 40 veterans in Phoenix have also died after waiting to see a doctor.

His widow, Sonja Nicastro, says her husband chronicled his attempts to get an appointment with the VA in his journal.

“No one ever answers,” he wrote. “No one ever calls me back.”

Phoenix is considered the epicenter of a growing scandal in the VA. One major concern is the deaths in Phoenix and whether they were caused by delays in treatment.

There’s also concern over allegations that the Phoenix hospital tried to hide the delays in getting care by keeping a secret list of patients. It’s the reason the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Committee issued a rare subpoena this week to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

In a unanimous vote, the committee agreed to subpoena all emails and other records in which Shinseki and other VA officials may have discussed destruction of that so-called secret list.

Allegations of delays and false records aren’t limited to Phoenix. The VA has acknowledged that in recent years, 23 patients across the country have died as a result of delayed care.

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Heather Sells

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