Calls mounted Thursday for a criminal investigation into sometimes fatal delays in care at Veterans Affairs hospitals amid revelations that patient wait times were tied to employee bonuses in at least one hospital.
The demands by lawmakers and veterans groups come as President Barack Obama appears to be asking Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to set the stage for his own departure, perhaps as soon as Friday.
Obama is waiting for an internal audit he ordered from Shinseki on the growing scandal before deciding whom to hold accountable, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
Shinseki’s preliminary report is due this week, Carney told reporters amid more calls from across the political spectrum for the secretary to step down or be dismissed over problems known for years but apparently never addressed.
Carney stopped short of saying Obama is standing by the embattled secretary, pointing instead to the President’s recent statement that Shinseki would likely not be interested in continuing to serve if he believed he let veterans down.
But that was not enough for a number of lawmakers in Congress after Wednesday’s release of a preliminary VA inspector general’s report that described a “systemic” practice of manipulating appointments and wait lists at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Phoenix.
The VA inspector general reported that at least 1,700 military veterans waiting to see a doctor were never scheduled for an appointment or were placed on a waiting list at the Phoenix VA, raising the question of just how many more may have been “forgotten or lost” in the system.
Rep. Steve Israel of New York, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is among those taking the outrage one step further, calling for a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice.
SOURCE: Tom Cohen and Chelsea J. Carter